At the beginning of every 60 Minutes episode, the tick tick tick of a stopwatch tells the audience that the clock has started and time is finite. That's a powerful metaphor for climate change and the dwindling amount of time we have to get off of carbon based fuels before it's too late. However, in the 60 Minutes segment that aired last night on what they labeled as the government's "failed" adventure into clean tech, they completely omitted any reference to climate change, aka the whole reason the government is investing in clean energy.
The climate omission isn't the only thing that 60 Minutes got wrong. The show made it seem as if the Stimulus Plan and tax breaks, which have combined to sink about $100 billion into clean tech, have yielded no fruit. The facts tell a different story:
1. The Department of Energy's loan program, which the stimulus funded, has a 97 percent success rate. This would include companies like Solar City and Tesla who have made millions for investors and are blazing a trail in home energy and transportation.
2. Clean tech is outpacing fossil fuels for job creation. Just look at two projects: The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the Ivanpah solar installation in the Mojave. According to the State Department, Keystone XL will create about 50 permanent jobs. This while threatening our land, water, and climate. Ivanpah is expected to employee 2,650 construction jobs and 86 operations and maintenance jobs. In the 60 Minutes piece. host Leslie Stahl claimed that, "Everything I've read there were not that many jobs created." The DOE loan program office estimates that its investments have created or saved approximately 55,000 direct jobs.
3. In 2012, renewable energy was the largest source of new electric capacity, led by wind power. That's an encouraging trend, and one that would be moving much faster if Congress did the one thing that every energy analyst says must be done to help renewable energy: put a price on carbon to incentivize the deployment of more clean power.
So that's how 60 Minutes got it wrong. But the greatest sin in the piece was the silence on climate change. Extreme weather has been pounding the U.S., and while pundits and the fossil fuel industry will claim action is too expensive, the cost of inaction is far too much to bear. In 2012, for instance, there were 11 climate disasters that cost more than $1 billion each, according to NOAA, including Superstorm Sandy, which costed about $65 billion. Perhaps in their next hit piece, 60 Minutes might consider telling the American people that. Tick tick tick.