This past Thursday morning a Fox Business News personality named Shibani Joshi appeared on Fox and Friends to describe the U.S. solar power industry as “dead in the water” and shill for natural gas. But co-host Steve Doocy quite correctly pointed out, “The United States simply hasn’t figured out how to do solar cheaply and effectively. You look at the country of Germany, it’s working out great for them.”
“It is working out great for them,” Joshi agreed before changing subjects to how U.S. solar panel manufacturers have been hurt by Chinese imports with rapidly falling prices. Sounding a little puzzled, co-host Gretchen Carlson interrupted Joshi to ask, “What was Germany doing correct? Are they just a smaller country, and that made it more feasible?”
Joshi replied, “They’re a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun.”
Doocy interjected, “Right.”
Joshi continued, “Right. They’ve got a lot more sun than we do, and the problem is, it’s a cloudy day and it’s raining, you’re not gonna have it. I mean this nation is vast and beautiful in its makeup. In California it’s a great solution.”
Joshi: “Here on the East Coast, it’s just not gonna work.”
The assertion that Germany has “a lot more sun than we do” is, of course, ridiculous to the point of being bizarre. In fact, every U.S. state save Alaska is a better candidate for solar power production than Germany.
But it’s also worth noting what the report actually got right. Germany is indeed getting a small but significant and growing amount of electricity from solar panels, and solar panels are indeed getting cheaper (which is bad for manufacturers but good for consumers). In less than a decade solar power projected to be one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity. That obviously won’t eliminate the need for fossil fuels — the sun doesn’t shine brightly all the time — but it cuts into it.
Incidentally, Joshi did correct herself in passing in an article on the Fox website the following day, writing,
… But I incorrectly stated that the chief difference between the U.S. and Germany’s success with solar installations had to do with climate differences on a “Fox and Friends” appearance on Feb. 7. In fact, the difference come down more to subsidies and political priorities and has nothing to with sunshine.
The fact that the solar industry is so heavily supported by government funds does not doom the solar industry. In fact, this type of seed money is very commonplace everywhere — from Silicon Valley to the energy sector. In fact, according to Greentech Media, every energy source in the last 400 years of U.S. history has been subsidized.
Updated to correct the spelling of Steve Doocy’s last name; my apologies for the error.