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Fox News faux pas on solar—Germany has more sun than US

A solar array at FoxLast week a piece on Fox News’ Fox & Friends said that Germany has a lot more sun than the U.S. and that’s why solar is more feasible there. While it’s no surprise with Fox’s conservative bent on the news that it would attack incentive programs developed by President Obama’s Administration, it’s woeful that the network’s ‘experts’ would betray such a paltry knowledge of geography and string together a host of misleading statements about the solar industry in the U.S. and abroad.

During the segment “Pulling the Plug: the Dim Future of Solar Power”, Fox & Friends hosts Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy—maybe it should be pronounced ‘Doozy’ in this instance—were joined by Fox business reporter Shibani Joshi in a hot-air attack on the solar industry and the incentives offered it since the Obama Administration started supporting renewable energy. “Let’s take our focus off solar and move it to nat gas and lets get this economy going because its about time,”Joshi said. “‘Cause that’s really what we have a lot of. But, you know the United States hasn’t really figured out how to do solar effectively and cheaply. If you look at the country of Germany it’s working out great for them.”

Asked why that’s the case, Joshi responded, "They're a smaller country, and they've got lots of sun. Right? They've got a lot more sun than we do,” Joshi said. In the U.S., “The problem is it’s a cloudy day and it’s raining and you’re not going to have it.” She concedes, “In California it’s a great solution.” Of course she’d know that, after all Fox News sister company Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. has taken advantage of incentives to install nearly 400 kilowatts of PV at its studios there. “On the East coast it’s just not going to work. So you have to have a little bit more of a mixed solution. Of course nat gas is a big part of that, too.”

Solar Energy Industries Association Vice President Thomas Kimbis was certainly surprised by the news. “It came as a surprise to me today to learn that Germany gets more sunlight than the United States, causing the U.S. solar industry to fail,” he wrote, tongue-and-cheek, in a blog post. “What’s actually true is that Germany gets about as much sun as Alaska, the state with the least amount of direct solar energy in the nation.” SEIA, by the way, has generously offered to send Fox & Friends an email offering the show some additional facts about solar on your behalf. You can send and email and watch the video here: Act Now | SEIA.

The solar explosion in Germany also comes from the country’s heavy and long-standing use of a feed-in tariff to reduce the cost of solar for residents and businesses. Under the tariff solar installations are reimbursed for the power they produce at higher rates than net-metering rates. That and the country’s decision to stop producing power from nuclear plants have driven the growth of solar.

Joshi had more to say about solar’s reliance on incentives in the U.S. “There’s tons of jobs and the entire industry is reliant on these billions of dollars and we know where those billion of dollars have gotten us,” she began. “I mean, according to my research, one tenth of one percent of the grid comes from solar power.”

Kimbis responded to that comment, too. “The solar industry in the U.S. is booming—not failing.  Markets have been growing at 70 percent to 100 percent annually for the past several years,” he wrote.

Joshi wasn’t entirely against incentives. “The one thing I want to mention is that subsidies are not in and of themselves a bad thing. We see them in the technology industries. It happened with nuclear it even happened with the oil industry,” she said. “The problem is the solar industry has never proved that it can take the training wheels off of additional funds and run on its own,” she purported.She failed to mention however, that oil and nuclear still enjoy those incentives. A recent study showed, for instance, that the oil industry has received $369 billion in subsidies since 1950, while another study found that the solar industry has received a total of $5.7 billion since 1947.  

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