Fox’s Solar Faux Pas: Abundant Sun Is Germany’s Edge

In the Berlin Book of Lists, my friend Max Hofstetter in one passage pays pained homage to the great capital’s nearly six-month winter, an interminable period of “slate gray skies without a hint of sunlight or blue, daylight emanating from behind a sickly veil.” So I know Max will get a kick out of this: Some dolt on Fox News asserted the U.S. could never match Germany in solar power because “they’ve got a lot more sun than we do.”

OK, you’re saying to yourself, What’s the big deal, Pete? Fox News is always making up stuff. True, but most of the time the Foxies’ tall tales are tailored to fit a predictable preconceived notion, and they attempt to stitch together their stories with a thin thread of truth. Obama is black. Therefore, in the Fox News viewer’s mind, it’s no great leap to accept that he’s a Marxist and a Muslim and maybe a crackhead too.

germany sunshine solar

image via National Renewable Energy Laboratory

But superior sunshine in Germany? Even if study after study after study after study has shown Fox News viewers to be spectacularly gullible and ill-informed, I have a hard time accepting they could be led to believe that Germany is some sort of sun-splashed paradise up there at latitudes between 47 and 55 degrees north.

It was Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi who authored the theory that climate gave Germany a natural solar edge over the U.S. “In California, it’s a great solution, but here on the East Coast it’s just not going to work,” she said, as highlighted by Media Matters.

In reality, Germany has more solar than the United States not because it is sunnier – even the grayest places in the Lower 48 are more photon-festooned than Germany’s sunniest regions – but because it has for years used an aggressive feed-in tariff policy to promote solar growth.

The U.S. commitment has been less robust and probably not as smart, but nevertheless solar is far from “dead in the water” here. Solar is a tiny part of the energy picture, but it is growing fast and it is providing tens of thousands of jobs.

Have companies failed? Of course! Germany, too, has had solar manufacturers fail; companies failing isn’t a sign that a technology or an industry won’t flourish. Through the first half of the 20th century, as automobile manufacturing became a cornerstone of the American economy, hundreds of manufacturers failed. It’s what happens as industries develop. Hell, look at the fossil fuel industries; they’ve gone through their share of booms and busts (and they’ve received a lot more subsidies than solar).

Courtesy Media Matters, watch Joshi and the Fox crew dish the stupid in the clip below.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.