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Fox News: US Solar Energy Investment Less Than Germany Because US Has Less Sun 644

Posted by Soulskill
from the Ra-likes-the-germans-better dept.
Andy Prough writes "Apparently those wise folks at Fox have figured out America's reluctance to invest as much money in solar energy as Germany — the Germans simply have more sun! Well, as Will Oremus from Slate points out, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Solar Resource map comparison of the U.S. and Germany, nothing could be further from the truth — Germany receives as much sunlight as the least lit U.S. state — Alaska."
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Fox News: US Solar Energy Investment Less Than Germany Because US Has Less Sun

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  • Problem? (Score:5, Funny)

    by jayrulez (2794643) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:35AM (#42831777)
    Fox News
    • Re:Problem? (Score:5, Funny)

      by realityimpaired (1668397) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:41AM (#42831839)

      To be fair, at 0800 UTC when they conducted their test, Germany was getting more sun than the US....

      • Re:Problem? (Score:5, Informative)

        by sonnejw0 (1114901) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:03AM (#42832117)
        You jest about the different time points, but in essence this is what the linked image has basically done. The data from Germany is from 1981-1990 using ground data, while the data from the US is from 1998-2005 using satellite data in a modeled extrapolation.
        • Re:Problem? (Score:5, Funny)

          by sonnejw0 (1114901) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:40PM (#42833483)
          Not that I would intuitively think Germany actually gets more sunlight than the U.S., but when a scientist (such as myself) says I used a model to extrapolate something, or normalized to conditions, it basically means I performed transformative maths to make the data look good enough to get grant money so I can get tenure because my stats program shot out more asterisks at me, all while being as obtusely transparent about it as I need to be to feel a sufficient amount of moral ambiguity.
    • Re:Problem? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lord Lemur (993283) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:58AM (#42832041)

      "Really, Fox News? Everything Fox News says is a lie. Even true things, once said on Fox News, become lies." - Lois Griffin

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bayowolf (1689640)
      I was stationed in Wiesbaden, (West) Germany back in the '80s; I got there on July 4 (how appropriate) and the weather was nice & sunny. Along about the 10th, it started getting cloudy...and I didn't see the sun until midway through the following April! I live in the Phoenix Metro area; I have my own opinions as to where I would rather build a solar energy plant.
  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:36AM (#42831787)
    It's the very first time Fox has said anything that's factually incorrect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Deitiker (732739)
      I think it is the first time that _anyone_ in the media has said anything that is factually incorrect.
    • by bondsbw (888959) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:51AM (#42831957)

      I wonder how many actually bothered to watch the video. That statement was stupid, of course, but it was just an added "fact" that really doesn't change the tone of the report that solar energy subsidies have resulted in very little output. We are throwing money away at failed companies.

      I'm all for solar energy. But I'm not for throwing our money away. My thought: who is being held accountable for the money, and overseeing that it goes into productive use?

      • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:02AM (#42832101)
        If this is their "expert" on solar energy, it's a serious blow to Fox's nonexistent credibility. If they can't be bothered to bring on experts who, at the very least, are going to dance around the real issue factually to make a case for the conservative standpoint, they need to get off the air.
      • by daem0n1x (748565) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:14AM (#42832257)

        My thought: who is being held accountable for the money, and overseeing that it goes into productive use?

        Because in private enterprise the return on investment is always 100% guaranteed?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Advice that's served me well: if someone is careless about the small details, you shouldn't trust them on the big picture--whether it's a Fox News report or someone's home brew beer.
      • by Jaktar (975138)

        The answer to your question is: DoE
        http://energy.gov/mission [energy.gov]

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:19AM (#42832329)

        But you've hit on the fundamental issue. If you just wait around for things to "get cheaper on their own" you wait a lot longer. One could argue that China has waited a bit too long for electric vehicles and over their densest cities they have "air you can chew." For the commuter vehicles for which they worked, electric cars in the US did not break even on the cost of electrics on the year the Volt was introduced. The $7,500 tax credit made them break even. Once they were justifiable to the consumer they sold like mad. This in turn causes the cost of manufacturing to drop and means that by the time the next generation of batteries hits, there will have been two generations of Volt working out all the bugs. If we get a 50 mile electric range out of the next gen (as opposed to 35 today), this will actually double the people for whom this technology is viable, if by then the cost of manufacturing the Volt had gone down 10% we might not need the subsidy to sell out of all the Volts GM can produce in a year.

        Even with the subsidy, my commute didn't fall into the break even range. I bought one anyway because I thought it was the right thing to do.

        So, I must disagree. We'll have better electrics on the road ~3 years sooner due to that "evil government subsidy." That was money well spent.

        As for centralized solar, there are lots of viable-sounding technologies for making that work, the sooner we try 10 of them on a large scale, the sooner we find the clear winner. Paying for the 9 runners up, is part of that cost. If you can do this sort of science and have all your test results come out positive each time, you aren't actually doing science.

        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:33AM (#42832495)

          I would be happy with 25 miles if the things were affordable. I can get a Cruze(the car the Volt is built from) for $17k, the extra $20k the Volt costs would buy me a lot of gasoline.

          • And there in lies the issue. I think electric cars are great little toys at the moment and there are areas where they are a great alternative to the ones powered by internal combustion engines but the added cost needs to come down a lot for there to be a large uptake of them in the places where they do well. My wife and I have looked into getting an electric vehicle to replace her car when it is time as she drive about 5 miles a day. With the abuse that her current car gets from this type of driving an elec
          • by tmosley (996283)
            And does. It's just that you aren't the one who burns it. Pay that extra money, and it has to go somewhere. That is what people tend to miss.

            The easiest way to reduce pollution is to refrain from spending money, yours or anyone else's. This is why poor countries tend to have more wildlife and less pollution.
      • by Instine (963303) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:06PM (#42832961)
        Would you call the war in a subsidy? I would. And trillions are spent there. So if 0.1% of energy is produced by subsidising to the tune of billions, but the rest by subsidies of trillions... The orders of magnitude kinda balance out.
      • by DeBaas (470886)

        The problem is that in the cost for fossil fuels, the cost for the damage it does is not taken into account. Granted it is very hard to determine those cost, but usually people that point out that solar energy is not cost effective ignore the cost that we do have, but is not paid via the energy bill

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:36AM (#42831791) Journal
    They mentioned briefly that the US tried to subsidize solar but the Chinese kept undercutting our manufacturers and we just couldn't beat their prices. What is Germany doing differently that allows them to beat Chinese prices? Tariffs? Import restrictions? Why does that kind of market manipulation work for Germany and why do we allow subsidies to happen in the states but not that sort of competition restriction?

    Oh, right, they have more sun ... which still doesn't answer how their solar products compete with the Chinese. I like how they named dropped 'natgas' several times because the US has so much of it! No problems worth mentioning about natural gas!
    • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:53AM (#42831989)

      They mentioned briefly that the US tried to subsidize solar but the Chinese kept undercutting our manufacturers and we just couldn't beat their prices. What is Germany doing differently that allows them to beat Chinese prices? Tariffs? Import restrictions? Why does that kind of market manipulation work for Germany and why do we allow subsidies to happen in the states but not that sort of competition restriction? Oh, right, they have more sun ... which still doesn't answer how their solar products compete with the Chinese. I like how they named dropped 'natgas' several times because the US has so much of it! No problems worth mentioning about natural gas!

      The only explanation is that China must get more sun than anyone else in the World.

    • by Zorpheus (857617) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:02AM (#42832093)
      In the past a large fraction of all solar cells was produced in Germany, but that was mostly because the production chains were set up and improved earlier than in other countries. Nowadays the German solar industry has the same problems as the American. And the reaction of the government is just to cut the subsidies, by quickly lowering the guaranteed prices for power from solar cells. Still, that hurts the German companies more than the Chinese, since the Chinese have lower costs due to lower wages and newer production plants.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:05AM (#42832153)

      What Germany is doing differently is subsidies. For many years, you could get a feed-in tariff of as much as EUR 0.65/kWh for providing solar electricity to the grid. Every sheep farmer in the country was covering his fields with PV. And, if you raised the panels up, you could still graze sheep because enough sunlight got around them to grow grass. The price of PV worldwide skyrocketed, leading to huge growth in production. That production bubble is now working its way through the marketplace and the price of PV panels has come from $4/W to under $1/W.

      What Germany has that we don't is a strong enough environmental movement to provide political backbone to those who want to spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize solar.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:11AM (#42832221)

      Um German here. Actually the Chinese are undercutting us. Our solar panel industry has moved out of country, gone bankrupt or is close to the brink of going bankrupt. The part of the industry not building panels is fine though.

      Whether that is a bad thing I can't say. Prices are very good now and they keep getting better. If the goal would have been local manufacture...well...that failed, if it was spreading solar power and making it viable it was a great success.

  • by Linsaran (728833) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:37AM (#42831797) Homepage
    So I know this is Fox News we're talking about here, but where exactly does one draw the line between a failure to check your sources, and becoming a tabloid?
    • by firex726 (1188453) <firex726&yahoo,com> on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:42AM (#42831845)

      Audience...

      Fox would qualify as a tabloid save for the fact that a large part of the US takes them seriously.

      • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:23AM (#42832375) Homepage Journal
        if a large part of the US takes seriously than a country of a size of Germany, in the latitude of Germany, gets more sun than US, then the problem is bigger than Fox News.
    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:43AM (#42831853)

      Notwithstanding that this doesn't even sound remotely plausible. Anyone with just a basic idea of geography knows that Germany is on a much higher latitude, where the sun doesn't shine as brightly as on lower latitudes.

      But then I guess that to some those deserts in southern US are best known for their dark, overcast winter days, and Germany is best known for their scorching hot summers.

    • by obarthelemy (160321) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:43AM (#42831857)

      Please don't insult tabloids.

    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:04AM (#42832119) Homepage Journal

      Fox is part of a class of media outlets that tells its audience what it believes it wants to hear. That's it. It's not about fact checking or anything like that, it's about knowing that its audience would actually stop watching it if it changed direction and concentrated more on telling them what Fox believes is true, rather than what the audience thinks is true.

      On that note, someone is bound to mention MSNBC, but MSNBC isn't really watched by anyone. MSNBC's mistake, FWIW, is that it's trying to do the same thing as Fox but for a different audience, but doesn't realize that liberals, by and large, don't "want to hear" things they "agree with" if they can't be backed up with facts (plus I don't believe NBC actually has any idea what a diverse bunch liberals actually are in practice.)

      I'm embarassed to say that I've worked for at least one media outlet (not going to say which, thankfully most Slashdotters have probably never heard of it) that tries to do the same thing though publishing a variety of different magazines. The "liberal" products did badly, the "tea party" products did well. I leave it to the reader to determine why.

      • by cat_jesus (525334) <cat_jesus@hotmail.com> on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:09PM (#42835623)

        On that note, someone is bound to mention MSNBC, but MSNBC isn't really watched by anyone.

        We watch MSNBC every day. Saturdays and Sundays are the best with "Up with Chris Hayes" and the Melissa Harris Perry show. Rachel Maddow is a must during the week. These people are policy wonks and are not afraid to admit when they're wrong. The research is deep and strong.

        And before the rightie nut jobs start blathering about MSNBC being "liberal", keep in mind that Joe Scarborough is on in the morning spewing his ridiculousness and the bride of Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell is on soon after that. MSNBC is a business and they don't like people being "too" liberal, like Cjenk Uger who was asked to tone it down or leave.

    • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:09AM (#42832203) Journal

      I think maybe this question should be asked of slate.

      Despite this being loaded with wording signifying it ai a political rant, I watched the video and it doesn't seem to say what the article says. In the video, the question was asked about why it works for Germany and not the US, the answer was, it's the sun it doesn't work as well on a cloudy day, it works well in California and not so good in the north east.

      That is not an incorrect statement even though it skips the entire question of why it different in Germany.

  • Part of a series (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:44AM (#42831867) Homepage Journal
    Actually, if you look at Fox over the past few weeks, they've run a series of anti-solar articles. I guess somebody wants to sell more oil.
  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:46AM (#42831891)

    The sun has a well-known liberal bias, therefore the US gets less sunlight than a socialist European welfare state.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chrisq (894406)

      The sun has a well-known liberal bias, therefore the US gets less sunlight than a socialist European welfare state.

      What sort of communist power source would give heat and light for free!

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        What sort of communist power source would give heat and light for free!

        So the universe is communist? It's scattered literally billions of these potential free energy sources around.

        Surely it owes someone royalties or something, how are we supposed to monetize a universe which provides all of this free stuff?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:46AM (#42831897)

    I am envious of the deep suntans that most Germans flaunt in my face.

  • Morning Show (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sanosuke001 (640243) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:47AM (#42831903)
    It's a morning show; they all suck. It doesn't have to be FOX News.
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:52AM (#42831971)
    Sun comes up. Sun goes down. You can't explain that.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:55AM (#42832005)
    I would recommend that any residents of Arizona who want some more sunshine visit Bavaria!
  • by DaKong (150846) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:55AM (#42832009)

    Germany has advanced its clean energy capacity because it has maintained a clear and consistent policy of incentivizing it for over a decade. It is paying off. Last year they set a record by generating half of weekend electricity demand with solar [inhabitat.com]. Denmark has managed something similar with wind power, getting 24% of its electricity that way [spiegel.de].

    Of course, Germany and Denmark have strong green constituencies who support those policies, but there are realpolitik concerns at work too. A few years back Russia shut down the natural gas pipeline that ran through the Ukraine to Germany and central Europe because they wanted to play politics with the Ukrainians. Natural gas prices spiked in Europe overnight and put a serious crimp in its economy. The Germans, Danes, and many others got the wake up call and have been driving toward energy independence hard.

    There are longer term benefits for those economies who move their energy base off fossil fuels: predictable energy costs. In economic terms, when you increase the predictability and stability of key inputs businesses can better plan and grow, in the same way that low inflation means businesses can better know what their borrowing costs and real revenues will be.

  • Installation Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by sulimma (796805) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:07AM (#42832179)

    According to a recent study by LBNL the soft cost associated with installing the panels are more than three times as high in the US compared to Germany.

    http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/german-us-pv-price-ppt.pdf [lbl.gov]
    Page 26: Costs that are not module costs. 4.46$/W in the US compared to 1.18$/W in Germany.

    Higher cost results in lower volume.

  • wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:26AM (#42832403)

    So, fox news has turned into a joke over the years, and the worst of it is the morning show. The hosts are idiots, they do little research and make a lot of false claims. BUT... watched the video. The quote was taken completely out of context. She said "Germany has a lot more sun than us. You could do solar power in places like California and out west, but on the east cost here it's just not going to work well." That's a far cry from what Slates claiming. It's still probably wrong, but it's not nearly as idiotic as Slates claiming and it was clearly an off the cuff remark and not a statement of fact. The real direction the interview was taking was that China is undercutting our solar panel production, and the only way to compete is with subsidies. Which is true. Also, she went on to say our money would be better invested in developing cleaner methods of using Natural Gas, which is also true. My own opinion is that, we're going to use that natural gas, period, it's a fact. So lets make sure we at least use it in as clean a way as possible.

    There are plenty of reasons to talk shit about Fox news. This single comment is not news worthy.

  • by RandCraw (1047302) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:26AM (#42832413)

    According to "Current Results", the total annual sunshine in Germany (hours):

    Berlin 1625
    Bremen 1483
    Hamburg 1557
    Hannover 1501
    Kiel 1627
    Magdeburg 1609
    Potsdam 1692
    Rostock 1687

    Total annual sunshine in Alaska:

    Anchorage 2061

    No US city/state gets less sunshine than Anchorage AK, though Syracuse NY is close at 2120, Seattle WA at 2170, and Columbus OH at 2183.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:35AM (#42832513)

    As an experiment, I just went to the Huffington Post to see if I could find any bad science on a site that leans towards the left. One headline reads "Scientists Say ETs May Be Much Closer To Us Than We Ever Before Thought". Going to the article shows that the only reference to life was added by the editors and half of it makes no sense (ET phoning home is closer than people think? Really? How close do people think it is? And I thought ET phoned a nearby ship, not his home planet, anyway) and even the article itself is woefully inaccurate; the comments themselves point out that "at a habitable distance and size" doesn't mean Earth-like, especially since planets orbiting close to red dwarfs would be tidally locked. (The astronomer used the phrase "potentially Earth-like", which is a nice way of saying "only a few of them are going to be Earth-like".)

    This was the first scientifically-related article I found on the first left-wing site I picked. It may not be as dramatic an error as saying that the US has less sun than Germany, but I wonder how big a mistake I would have found had I tried for a month or two or however long it took to find the Fox News error.

    The media and political commentators are horrible at science. Nothing to do with Fox News specifically, as the Slashdot headline and the absence of articles about other sites tend to imply.

    • by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:43PM (#42833523) Homepage

      I have to agree: The problem really has nothing to do with Fox news. It has to do with the entire profession of journalism. With very few exceptions, journalists have zero grasp of issues relating to science, engineering or technology. Too often, their idea of research is to talk to their equally clueless colleagues in the lunchroom. Alternatively, they just make up "facts" that sound right to them.

      The entire profession is spiraling towards the drain. With the rise of the Internet, fewer people are willing to pay for news of any sort. Less income, budgets are cut, fewer journalists have to churn out more material, quality goes in the crapper, so even fewer people are willing to pay for news...

      Just look at the quality of coverage on scientific/technical issues like nuclear power, health care, climate change. Find some specific bit of information, any factoid that seems fairly unique, and start searching. Most likely you will find a lovely merry-go-round: journalists copying from journalists copying from journalists. If you manage to find the original source of the factoid, likely as not it has been taken totally out of context and/or has been completely misunderstood.

      Alternatively the entire article may be basically a copy of a press release. Companies and governmental organizations know the journalists are under time pressure, so they provide pre-written "articles" that can be used directly, no thinking required.

  • by ZonkerWilliam (953437) on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:55AM (#42832799) Journal
    Thank goodness for Fox News, considering watching the video Slate got it wrong, but hey it's not the first time!
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:04PM (#42832933)

    I guess Fox business analyst Shibani Joshi is a juggalo.

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