Fox News continues to reverse the success of the federal clean energy loan program by cherry-picking from a small minority of failures, magnifying the trend of mainstream media distorting the program's success.
In an April 11 segment titled "Who's Ruining the Economy?" Fox & Friends denounced the Department of Energy's (DOE) low carbon vehicle program despite its success. Fox Business host Stuart Varney pointed to a few companies that received government assistance and later filed for bankruptcy, saying "they thought they could pick winners. They picked losers." He went on to decry the announcement that the DOE will revamp their advanced technology vehicles manufacturing (ATVM) program, saying "they're not reversing course at the sight of failure, they're actually speeding up down the same road":
Fox News' myopic view of the loan program is a lie by omission -- 98 percent of the funds in DOE's clean energy loan programs have been successful. Of the 31 ventures awarded DOE loans, only four have been discontinued -- a far greater success rate than that of venture capital investments, which typically consider three in ten successes to be a successful portfolio.
The Fox & Friends segment showcases how media often distort the success of the DOE clean energy loans. In 2013, mainstream media mentioned government loans overwhelmingly in the context of failed companies, rarely discussing successes such as Tesla and Nissan's Leaf.
Varney took the distortions to a new level, claiming that Fisker still poses a "risk" to taxpayers' wallets, saying "a half billion dollars of your money is at risk." While $528 million was initially loaned to Fisker Automotives through federal programs, only $192 million was disbursed before the government froze the loan. Varney also suggested that Tesla was responsible for losing taxpayer money, saying the company is "doing well now but in 2010 they lost a half billion" -- neglecting to mention that Tesla's DOE loan was later paid back in full, nine years ahead of schedule.
Success notwithstanding, the DOE recently announced an overhaul to its low carbon vehicle program to ensure that the remaining $16 billion set aside for future loans will go to profitable ventures -- not exactly "speeding up down the same road." From a DOE April 2 blog post:
The ATVM Program, administered by the Department's Loan Programs Office (LPO), has more than $16 billion in remaining loan authority to support the production of fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicles and components in the U.S. After considering comments from MEMA members, automotive leaders, and industry organizations regarding the effectiveness of the program, the Department is announcing steps to improve the program, clarify eligibility requirements and increase responsiveness to applicants.