Correcting Loose, Off-Target Wired Magazine Claims Regarding Clean Energy

This is an awesome debunking of a pretty horrid Wired article on clean energy (an article I’m glad I didn’t run into before seeing this one). Seriously, I thought more highly of Wired—I hope they’ll see and take the suggestions below. Thanks to Joe, Jigar Shah, and Tom Gray for the thorough response and call to action (Joe’s call to action to retract and change the headline). Here’s the full :

In 2011, global investment in renewable energyfor the first time. And theU.S.into the lead in clean investment ahead of China by about $8 billion.

So what, other than bad journalism, explains this nonsensical headline and image from the top tech magazineWired?

Actually, it is just bad journalism, pure and simple. Indeed, the magazine itself clearly wanted a sensationalistic headline and even more sensationalistic photo to get eyeballs in this highly competitive media environment.

The story simply doesnt justify the headline. Thats obvious from the fact that theincludes this summary of wind energy prospects:

Outlook: Cheaper prices for turbines should result in lower costs for wind power by 2014. Though growth has slowed since 2008, this sector is still expected to cover about a third of any increased energy consumption in the US between now and 2035.

Huh? An energy industry that barely registered any significant U.S. capacity or generation a decade ago is now expected to provide a third of the increased energy consumption in the next quarter century and thats somehow a clean-tech bust which warrants an exploding wind-turbine image? Amazing (and I will repost a response to the article by a leading wind expert below).

For the record, Im not saying the wind industry doesnt face a near-term challenge in the face of unconventional gas and a GOP Congress unwilling to support a crucial tax credit. Climate Progress has made clear that it does (see ). Im saying that there has been no bust in the industry yet, there doesnt need to be one, and, indeed, the prospects for the industry over the next couple of decades remain very strong, as the article itself makes clear.

I asked Eilperin about the headline and images, which I thought were completely unwarranted. She makes clear she had nothing to do with them:

I stand by the story, which accurately portrays some of the challenges the U.S. clean tech faces in light of the current fiscal and political climate. The piece also highlight some of the industrys bright spots, including the fact that cheaper conventional PV panels has made the expansion of distributed solar generation and utility-scale solar projects more affordable.As many magazine readers would understand, I had no input into either the display art or the headline that accompanied the piece.

Readers know that headlines are the most important part of any such story, seen by at least 10 times as many people who read it and in the internet era, its likely that 20 to 100 times as many people see the headline from a respected magazine likeWired.

Wired should retract and change the headline.

I blame the editors for this but I dont agree with Eilperins assessment of the story itself. I think it is flawed, especially its discussion of solar energy.

The piece uses Solyndra as a stand-in for the entire US solar industry and devotes over one third of the piece to thenow-bankrupt company. But Eilperin and Wired seem completely unaware of the fact that Solyndra was always a one-of-a-kind solar play that made sense only if silicon prices stayed high. In that sense, it was obviously part of aportfolio investment strategy by DOE, a hedge against their much broader strategy, which was based on silicon prices coming down. As Bloomberg Government made clear in athat received virtually no coverage in the media,the focus on Solyndra is not proportional to its impact. About87% of the DOE loan portfolio is low-risk.

Youd never know from theWiredpiece that in 2010,. Youd never know that the U.S. solar industry grew 100% in 2010 and anothe

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