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Published on January 5th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


60 Minutes Show On Cleantech Looks Like Its Going To Be “Dumb & Dumber Part 3” (+13 Charts)

January 5th, 2014 by  

Update January 7: the first two EV charts are now updated with final 2013 numbers.

cleantech deadNote: if you do nothing else, be sure to jump down to the bottom and take a look at the 13 cleantech charts 60 Minutes seems to have missed.

Granted, I haven’t watched the show yet (it hasn’t aired yet), but I just watched the horrible preview, and the title is “The Cleantech Crash.” Oy, someone hasn’t been reading CleanTechnica, or keeping up to date at all with what is actually happening in the world of cleantech.

I’ll start with some information that a representative of ACORE — who just informed me about the 60 minutes show — sent along (which actually happens to reference one of my articles):

60 Minutes thinks Clean Tech is dead. Here’s why they’re dead wrong:

#1: The government’s investment in clean tech was a success.

FACT: The Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program actually has a 97% success rate.

  • Solyndra, Abound Solar and others represent just 3% of DOE’s entire portfolio. (Source: Department of Energy)

FACT: This past year, an estimated $13 billion was invested in solar projects in the US, a tenfold increase since 2007.

  • Solar stocks are up too – SolarCity is currently valued at approximately $4.9 billion. (Source: New York Times)

#2: America’s “Green Collar” jobs are thriving.

Fact: The DOE Loan Guarantee Program created over 55,000 direct jobs in everything from wind energy to biofuels to electric vehicles.

Fact: In Q3 of 2013, 80 new clean energy and clean transportation projects were announced, creating more than 15,000 jobs.

  • Renewable power generation was among the top sectors for job creation in Q3 of 2013. (Source: CleanEnergyWorks4Us)

#3: The U.S. is moving toward a clean energy future at record pace.

Fact: Renewables were the largest source of new US electricity capacity in 2012, providing over 49% of all new generation capacity.

  • Wind energy installations alone proved to be the largest single new generation technology in the U.S. in 2012, outpacing even natural gas. (Source: FERC)

Fact: From January to October of 2013, all-electric vehicle sales were up 448% year-on-year.

  • For 100% electric vehicles, 2013 saw 33,617 sales from Jan.-Oct. vs 6,135 during the same period in 2012. (Source: EVObsession)

& ON TWITTER: @EnergyFactCheck

Thanks to ACORE for the great pre-emptive, and for using one of my articles for that! (That would be the last article, on EV sales growth.)

Really, you have to be completely out of touch with what is happening in US and global cleantech markets in order to focus on the industry in the way 60 Minutes is doing so. Frankly, it’s depressing and makes me feel ashamed of American mass media. (Even more so than before.)

In addition to the great information shared by ACORE, I’m going to add a handful of charts below. Tell me if these cleantech industries look like they’re crashing to you. The first two charts are new ones that I just made based on the latest EV sales data. It will actually be updated tomorrow when Ford reports its December sales, but thanks to 60 Minutes, I’m creating nearly finalized versions a little bit prematurely.


Solar Power

CSI Solar Capacity Growth

Source: CPUC


Source: GTM Research

 Wind Power

world wind power 2012

Source: EPI, GWEC, Worldwatch

 Clean Energy Jobs

Massachusetts green job growth

Source: MassCEC

Man, I must be understanding something wrong. All of those charts indicate massive cleantech growth, yet 60 Minutes is talking about a cleantech crash… Am I confused? Am I dreaming? (er, having a nightmare.)

But hey, a few companies went out of business, and that never happens in young and fast-growing industries, right?

In all seriousness, the real cleantech crash is the crash in prices. I think this chart on the dropping price of solar PV panels captures that most beautifully:

price of solar power drop graph

Source: BNEF

Note that Solyndra, which it looks like 60 Minutes will be focusing on a bit, was a solar company with an alternative to conventional solar PV. It simply couldn’t compete with the dropping costs in the broader industry. But I guess 60 Minutes didn’t dig deep enough to figure that out. (Also note that the Solyndra story is a 2012 story!)

Solar power isn’t the only cleantech industry seeing a cost drop. We’re seeing similar drops in the price of wind turbines, EV batteries, and electric cars themselves. It’s really a simple story to cover — I can only imagine how/why 60 Minutes is screwing it up so badly.

Related Stories:

18 Fun Renewable Energy Charts From NREL Director Dan Arvizu & Ren21′s Renewables 2013 Global Status Report

3 Charts Showing Solar Power’s Wicked Growth

Electric Car Sales Up 300% In 2013 

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Texancoach

    The thing is…the new president of CBS News is David Rhodes former executive of Fox News. He was with Fox during their protectionism of Bush/Cheney during 9/11, Iraqi invasion, the Great Recession and record unemployment. Apparently Rhodes has brought his deceiving Fox baggage along with him…

    • Wow, that explains a lot.

    • StPete

      Now we know WTF happened to 60 Minutes!

  • Stan Moyer

    Driving across US I have seen larger and larger wind farms (esp Texas) so collapse is BS!

    • Bob_Wallace

      They’re like Baghdad Bob with the US tanks driving by in the background….

    • GwenKillerby

      So, it appears that Texans are utter hypocrites on this subject, they’ll
      bad mouth renewables but if you blink for a second, they will have
      build wind parks left and right like crazy people.

      What else is new? This might be the only time in recorded history that the world profits from ReichWing hypocrisy. Not that that absolves them or makes them Christians or something.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Haven’t you heard? The Texas Tea Party invented wind turbines and built the first wind farm.

        It’s right there in the Texas school books along with the Earth being only 6,000 years old and Al Gore is fat.

  • StPete

    Is 60 Minutes’ staff really just incompetent, or are they (& CBS) consistently systematically trying to misinform the American people the way Fox News has always done? AND, if they’re found to be systematically misinforming the American people, what should be the consequences for them, and Fox News? Back in 2003 an appeals court gave Fox News (and other news media) permission to fire reporters for NOT lying…

    • See comment below: “The thing is…the new president of CBS News is David Rhodes former executive of Fox News. He was with Fox during their protectionism of Bush/Cheney during 9/11, Iraqi invasion, the Great Recession and record unemployment. Apparently Rhodes has brought his deceiving Fox baggage along with him…”

      • StPete

        Thank you- THAT explains wtf happened to 60 Minutes.

  • SolarPod

    There are so many sides to this one Zach. Here are some factors:

    1. From an environmental cost stand point there is no argument. It is a good investment.

    2. All energy fuels get subsidies so why not solar and clean tech.

    But here are things against:

    1. In MN all of the solar has been for the last 4 + years ONLY because of STATE SPONSORED parochialized solar. Two hand picked companies are given subsidies and they took up almost 80% of the solar industry in MN. Both of them would not have survived a true market potential environment.

    2. No body knows where this investment stands “Fraunhofer CSE’s 5-year, $11.7M research project focuses on the development of “plug and play” solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed, and connected by homeowners without the need to engage outside consultants or contractors. “.

    In all I think the theme of 60 minutes was right. The main reason for cleantech was missed – that is – “ENVIRONMENT WILL BE PROTECTED”.

    • GwenKillerby

      You are suggesting that ONE example of a subsidy gone wrong is proof of anything. It’s not.

      The USA is heavily subsidizing Big Oil, and that whole industry has gone wrong and is actively destroying the globe. Not just a couple of subsidies.

      • SolarPod

        My company is the unfortunate target by the MN Government to
        NOT be placed as Made in MN. We have a very unique product. We have the first Modular Plug & Play and lowest price in the market solar system. We are not qualified as Made in MN. Our panels are no different than the ones used by the two. In fact we pledged to use all American made components for the Made in MN program.

        But because we did not do the lobbying and did not pay the
        legislatures we were not qualified. That is a fact.

        Although I agree with the argument that the environment has to be
        protected, I also agree that parochialized money has been given that dilutes the legitimacy.

  • Great point. Thanks for adding that perspective, something easily forgotten or never even realized!

  • Ross

    “The real cleantech crash is the crash in prices” – like this line.

    Sorry to hear that a formerly respectable TV show like 60 minutes is putting out such nonsense.

    • Thanks, i did too 😀 Came about when I ran across that graph and wanted to get it in there somehow. 😀

  • John Howe

    “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you fiercely. Then you win.” Anyone who’s worked around cleantech energy for a period of time (as I have for nearly thirty years) can easily see through this 60 Minutes hatchet job. The good news is, it fits a well-established pattern: as a disruptive idea or technology gains traction, it comes under increasing attack from powerful incumbents wed to the status quo. In the case of cleantech energy, the long-term trends couldn’t be clearer. Solar and wind energy costs have been driven down more than 95% since the 1970s. Energy-efficient lighting and electric vehicles are taking off. Cleantech costs are headed lower, and performance even higher. All, thanks largely to public investments in science and technology development attacked in this piece. Oil prices, meanwhile, have quadrupled in the past decade, and the shale energy revolution has been oversold: even at today’s high prices, shale oil and gas investors are pulling back as they learn these resources are costlier and less profitable than first thought. History will record the early 2010s as the “crossover point” when cleantech energy emerged as the new standard for meeting the world’s energy needs in a clean and sustainable fashion. Little wonder that entrenched fossil fuel interests, stuck in a failed paradigm, are throwing anything and everything by way of disinformation to see what sticks. Shame, Leslie Stahl, for not doing your homework.

    • Thanks for this extended, thoughtful comment. And way to put a positive spin on it. Indeed, it won’t be long before people even forget that there was opposition to cleantech.

  • alwaysthink

    Very important yet so often overlooked point. But remember the current MSM theme is that we must “import” great brains because Americans are not up to par! We must support our Public Education system to make sure every kid who’s good at science gets a good education including Advanced Degrees. It should depend upon the parent economic status.

  • secondsilicon

    You wiped the floor with them with these charts, Zach. I’d like to see our friends over at GTM respond to this as well.

    • heard they were going to be discussing on their podcast. not sure about an article, but expect that — i haven’t been able to catch up with other sites today yet though.

  • They always think it’s good journalistic practice to provide ‘balance’, you know like getting global warming deniers without scientific background in front of the camera.

    Where’s the balance now?

  • Doug Cutler

    Sly bit of insinuation that “Cleantech Crash”. Makes you realize why cross examination is so important in trials.

    But did you catch that headline somebody slipped in as a graphic? – ” Clean Tech Dead Like Internet in 2000″ . . . most accurate moment in the whole piece.

    • Ha, i did not see that! Man, that would be good to add in here. Will have a look for it. 😀

      • Doug Cutler

        Ya, I wonder if it was just a priceless oversight or if somebody on the production crew who actually knew better just slipped one past ’em.

      • Doug Cutler

        I just did a netsearch: the phrase “Cleantech is dead, like the internet was in 2000” originates from the title of a panel discussion on Cleantech investment held as part of the Verge Conference in 2012. To be honest to 60 Minutes I don’t recall the exact context of the narration at the moment the headline appeared. But based upon generally negative and shallow tone of the whole “Cleantech Crash” segment, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone just threw it in not realizing what it really was. In which case, oh, the irony . . .

        • Doug Cutler

          Hi Zachary, this is a little off topic, really a suggestion for another storyline to explore: lately there has been a war of words between Canadian rocker Neil Young and the Canadian Government over the latter’s rabid development of the Alberta tar sands. Along with the usual issues of pollution and climate change, the fight also involves Native Treaty Rights. The government suggests that even rock stars need resource development (aka Alberta tar sand oil) wherein Young counters with the fact he can drive across N. America in his electric car. (No need to keep this posted here.)

          • Hey, just seeing this! Thanks. Hadn’t seen that. Worth writing about.

  • Senlac

    What Cleantech crash. I am fast loosing all respect for 60 Minutes. They just did a Fox news, but smoother without all the talking head’s hype, 60 Minutes style. Single out all the negative, like 150 billion in Cleantech investment by the Government, yet if you add up the failed companies amounts you come up with are very small amounts in relative dollars, although they appear to have a long list, and drop a few names for effect. It was sleazy, an attack through generalizations and inferences with no clear references to facts. 60 Minutes often hold themselves holier that thee as they expose some slick SOB, but now they are the slick SOB. Ironic isn’t it. They are becoming what they seek. And they have exposed themselves as a fraud.

    Burn those bastards, burn them down.

    • alwaysthink

      Sadly 60 Minutes has been captured by the Dirty Energy Kochtopus. Look at the mess they broadcast with the phony Benghazi story? These producers and reporters need to be exposed to sunlight to everyone knows they are feeding us propaganda.

  • Joshua

    A show dependent on an older audience on a network geared towards an older audience won’t challenge the older audience’s preconceived notions with facts. No one would be left to watch the show!

  • Track the source of the network’s ad revenue Zach… I was laughing watching how they focused so much on the negatives….


    • I think I’d have a hard time laughing. Happy you could watch it with a sense of humor. 😀

  • Steeple

    Seems like two key messages, one which was covered and one not as well.

    First, the Feds are the best route to funding promising research across a variety of spectrums. However, they aren’t the most appropriate investors for startups and this report addressed this.

    Second, the point was duly made that 9 out of 10 tech startups usually fail. That’s why professional investors in these startups invest in a variety of equity structures, and rarely structure their investments as debt vehicles. In that way, one Tesla can pay for a lot of Solyndras. But since the Feds didn’t do this, the losses were incurred.

    I feel Zach’s pain in that it unfairly tarnishes all of the other good work going on with renewables. For the failures in biodiesel, there is great progress in solar and even wind.

    The report did do a good job of raising the question of where the role of Federal govt should end and that of private capital should begin.

    • alwaysthink

      Today’s private capital is so selfish that they only focus on sure bets that will provide profit.

      Besides historically our government has always been the major investors for big new tech. Look up the history of the railroad, electrification and highways that spurred the growth of the auto.

      We must get away from making “government” the “other” and get back to the realization that “We The People” are the government. If you don’t like government then just look at yourself because you are government.

      • Steeple

        Based on 9 out of 10 startups failing, that would argue against the “sure thing” thesis.

        We just need to recognize what government is good at and what it isn’t. Commonly shared goods like roads, clean air and water, etc… Are good examples of what govt should be doing. Funding the commercial startup of new technology production that can’t find private investors doesn’t fall into that category.

      • Excellent comment. Man, that should be repeated here and all over the place every day. Crazy how people have lost sight of that. And you’ve so eloquently expressed this simple, neglected point.

        (Though, regarding the first line, i think investors still invest in a lot of risky companies that fail.)

  • RobS

    They list 5 failed companies and collapse in an allegorical heap “exhausted” by the sheer scale of failures. Someone should send them a list of all the DOE loan program recipients who have not failed and demand they give a fair and equal hearing to listing a comparative representation of them, considering about 3% of loan recipients have failed they would need to list about 150 successful recipients to give a balanced representation. This is just shoddy tabloid journalism at it’s worst, sad that 60 minutes is choosing to go down this path.

  • Pete D

    After the Benghazi debacle late last year, 60 Minutes has little credibility, but the very title for this report — “Cleantech Crash” — and the “preview” clip on the website are still unbelievable! Nice job, Zachary, getting the ball rolling on what clearly is some outrageously bad work by Lesley Stahl and company.

    • Omega Centauri

      I remember from like 1980, a college who was active pro nuclear, commented on a 60minutes piece, he said they had people he knew “saying” stuff they didn’t and wouldn’t have said. I guess they simply spliced words together to get people to say what 60 minutes wanted. They’ve always been very low on integrity, a good story line always trumps truth.

    • Thanks, Pete!

  • Omega Centauri

    Follow the money. I bet 60 minutes gets a lot of add revenue from fossil interests. They’ve never been known for honesty.

    • Yeah, there’s absolutely no way a thoughtful person who knows anything about the industry (or even a thoughtless person who knows anything about the industry) would run such a show unless they had an ulterior motive.

      • Russell

        Maybe, however it could be so they can make another show in a few months time saying the opposite and quoting themselves to show how things have changed. Two controversial stories for the price of one that way.

      • Zach,
        When one looks at media ownership and the other interests of those wealthy few (coal, oil, arms production) it’s rather easy to see what the ulterior motive is. What’s really sad is that the “hit piece” will be effective. My granny used to say “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” and 60 Minutes’ insult (to our intelligence, at least some of us) is proof that Granny was right.
        Great post, by the way…

        • Thanks, Ed. 😀 Been awhile! Hope you’re doing well. 😀

          • I keep up, I just haven’t commented much lately. I’m OK and trust that you are too. Hoping that 2014 brings more progress.

      • David Fuchs

        It seems that all the big news stations and shows, run nothing but propaganda for one interest group or another recently. Liberal, conservative, fossil fuel, etc, i.e. whoever the owner of the station is politically or financially aligned with. All these shows keep getting more and more desperate and crazy sounding as time goes by. The weird thing is, they do not seem to notice how horribly insane and out there they sound.

        Watching this meltdown of news organizations is actually interesting … who will be the next host, to be let go.

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