Debunking the Renewables “Disinformation Campaign”

Despite vast evidence supporting the advancement of renewable energy, various media outlets insist on denying its progress, blurring the lines between inefficient reporting and deliberate lying.


| August 19, 2013



Renewable energy media coverage

Misleading coverage on renewable energy not only affects public opinion, but also slows political action and progress.


Photo by Fotolia/DragonImages

Reposted with permission from the Rocky Mountain Institute 

According to Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi, renewables are successful in Germany and not in the U.S. because Germany has “got a lot more sun than we do.” Sure, California might get sun now and then, Joshi conceded during her now-infamous flub, "but here on the East Coast, it's just not going to work." (She recanted the next day while adding new errors.) 

Actually, Germany gets only about as much annual sun as Seattle or Alaska; its sunniest region gets less sun than almost anywhere in the lower 48 states. This underscores an important point: solar power works and competes not only in the sunniest places, but in some pretty cloudy places, too.

A pervasive pattern

The Fox Business example is not a singular incident. Some mainstream media around the world have a tendency to publish misinformed or, worse, systematically and falsely negative stories about renewable energy. Some of those stories’ misinformation looks innocent, due to careless reporting, sloppy fact checking, and perpetuation of old myths. But other coverage walks, or crosses, the dangerous line of a disinformation campaign—a persistent pattern of coverage meant to undermine renewables’ strong market reality. This has become common enough in mainstream media that some researchers have focused their attention on this balance of accurate and positive coverage vs. inaccurate and negative coverage.

Tim Holmes, researcher for the U.K.’s Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC), points out press coverage is important because it can influence not only “what people perceive and believe” but also “what politicians think they believe.” PIRC’s 2011 study of renewable energy media coverage surveyed how four of the highest-circulation British daily newspapers reported on renewables during July 2009. A newspaper’s balance of positive and negative renewables coverage tended to align with its editorial ideology. The difference was astounding. In one instance, negative coverage of renewables was just 2.5 percent; in another, upwards of 75 percent.





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