Solar Energy in Germany: Where the Sun Don't Shine
The Internet was abuzz last Friday with some astounding news: Germany has more sun than the United States!
That’s as reported by Fox business reporter Shibani Joshi last week on Fox and Friends, in a statement she’s probably been regretting ever since.
The good news about this news is that it’s simply not true. In fact, Germany has solar energy resources comparable to those of Alaska, while our mainland is more akin to sunny Spain:
This image, from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is by now a familiar sight to anyone who knows anything about solar energy -- a group that clearly doesn’t include Fox and Friends.
The same week, another Fox story also concluded that solar is on the decline. Why? Well, it’s clearly because solar is affordable only when the government “throws” billions in subsidies at it, which are now “being slashed.” At the same time, homeowners have been snapping up solar because of an influx of cheap panels from China. So, let me get this straight: The problem is that solar is not affordable without subsidies -- and also that it's so affordable that people are buying it in droves. There must be logic in there somewhere … right?
What these stories really tell us
What’s really on the decline is not solar. It’s a couple other things -- and one of those is Fox News itself. A recent poll shows that the network’s credibility is at an all-time low, though that’s still not low enough when you consider how many people continue to absorb its misinformation. And while other media outlets may not be as laughably off-base as Fox (which some are now comparing to The Onion), the American public is not getting an accurate picture when it comes to solar.
What’s more significant, though, is that fossil fuels are on a slow but steady decline. Last year, even a major coal company admitted that it’s only a matter of time till we move away from them -- and that this is the right move to make.
But most in the fossil fuel industry are not so upfront. When people in power see that they’re losing their power (pun intended), they can get desperate. And that’s the real story behind these Fox stories.
The article on declining subsidies becomes less baffling when you look at its focus on utilities. As more people generate their own power, utilities are concerned they’ll lose money. That fear leads to all kinds of misrepresentations. And the same fear has gripped the fossil fuel industry.
Joshi’s outrageous claim on Fox and Friends got so much attention that it overshadowed the many times in the short segment she and co-host Steve Doocy touted “nat gas.” Doocy even went so far as to say, “That’s what we really have a lot of.”
I have news for Doocy: What we “really have a lot of” is sun. In fact, every day enough sun falls on the United States to more than power us for 10 years. Coal, oil, and gas combined can’t come close to matching that:
But Fox, like other news organizations, is beholden to the fossil fuel industry. So they cling staunchly to the belief that the industry will prevail, against all odds. And that’s what they report.
Getting beyond misinformation
The sad thing about all this is that it perpetuates the impression that renewable energy is a partisan issue. In fact, 92% of Americans support developing more solar, and a majority want the government to support solar energy with subsidies and incentives. George Shultz is a major proponent of renewables; the Department of Defense is one of solar’s biggest adopters. Just visit Germany, and you’ll be struck by the fact that there, you can’t guess anyone’s political leanings by whether they have solar panels on their roof.
That’s as it should be. The truth is, solar is just getting started -- in a big way. You could even say solar is booming. And given that it’s so abundant and confers so many benefits, solar power isn’t going away, no matter how much Fox News wants it to.
I hope their recent gaffes will make Fox News reconsider the way they report on solar power. I won’t hold my breath for that, but I predict it won’t be long till we see an overall shift in media representation of solar -- at least, when it comes to the more trusted media sources.
In the meantime, I’m off to plan a vacation -- to sunny Germany!
This post was originally published at PV Solar Report.
Rosana Francescato combines her passions for solar power and community as a community solar advocate. This began with her quest to install solar on her San Francisco condo complex and has evolved into blogging and solar analysis. She’s a member of the Local Clean Energy Alliance steering committee and has hands-on experience installing solar with GRID Alternatives, where she’s been the ...
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