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60 Minutes’ “The Cleantech Crash”: CBS News Program’s Criticism of the Clean Energy Industry and the Reaction of Clean Energy Advocates

            On January 5, 2014, CBS news program 60 Minutes aired a segment featuring correspondent Lesley Stahl, titled “The Cleantech Crash.” The news program asserted that “despite billions invested by the U.S. government in so-called ‘Cleantech’ energy, Washington and Silicon Valley have little to show for it.”

            After the program aired, the segment swiftly drew criticism from the Department of Energy, venture capitalists, and clean energy supporters. These advocates vocalized their disapproval of the segment’s factual inconsistencies and omission of pertinent information. Overall, the criticism of “The Cleantech Crash” can be categorized into the following three categories:

  • The American “Green Collar” job market is thriving.

According to the job tracking database conducted by Environmental Entrepreneurs since 2011, in the past two years, more than 186,500 clean energy and clean transportation jobs have been announced. These jobs provide a stable income and cannot be exported, such as the construction of wind turbines or the installation and upkeep of solar panels, for example.

  • The failure rate of the Department of Energy investments in clean energy projects remains quite low.

Stahl’s identification of only 9 tax-funded failures within the clean energy industry does not warrant the sector being defined as a “crash”. The Department of Energy’s investment in clean energy projects has significantly helped accelerate the implementation of renewables as sources of energy. According to FERC, renewable resources were the largest source of new US electricity generation in 2012, providing an estimated 49% of new generation capacity. Credit Suisse recently projected that renewable energy will meet 85% of new energy demand in America.

  • Cleantech energy is a value-added asset to energy sustainability and environmental protection.

Cleantech energy is forming new and sustainable methods to power our economy, increase our energy security, and improve our nation’s resilience and competitiveness. Additionally, clean, renewable energy reduces carbon and greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our environment and accelerate climate change.

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Paul H. Dickerson is a Mintz Member and a leader in the energy sector. He's served as Chief Operating Officer for the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). He also served as Chief of Staff for the US and Foreign Commercial Service at the US Department of Commerce.