NPR Boosts Obama's Green Energy Executive Order, Leaves No Room For Critics

NPR's Scott Horsley carried water for the Obama administration on Thursday's All Things Considered as he covered the President's green energy executive order. All of Horsley's soundbites during the segment came from the Democratic chief executive and two boosters of his latest environmental policy. True to form, the slanted NPR correspondent failed to include any criticism of the order in his report.

Horsley identified one of his pro-green energy talking heads, Severin Borenstein, as being with University of California, Berkeley. However, he didn't point out that Professor Borenstein served on a federal advisory committee for President Obama's former secretary of energy, Ray LaHood between 2010 and 2011.

Substitute host Don Gonyea led into the journalist's report by spotlighting how "President Obama wants to shrink the federal government's carbon footprint...the government is the nation's single largest energy consumer. Obama signed an executive order today directing agencies to get more of their power from clean energy sources." Gonyea also played the first of three straight clips from the President's press conference announcing his initiative.

After the final clip from Mr. Obama, Horsley touted how "nationwide, wind energy production has more than tripled since 2008, while solar power has increased more than twenty-fold. The two still account for less than five percent of overall power production, but that figure is growing rapidly." He continued by playing up how "renewable power got an unlikely Republican boost this week. Former Secretary of State George Shultz penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling clean energy a kind of insurance policy against the threat of climate change."

The NPR correspondent zeroed in on Borenstein towards the end of the segment, and pointed out the professor's lament that "without government subsidies, solar power still costs two to four times as much as electricity from a natural gas power plant." He also spotlighted that "advocates, like Schultz and Borenstein, also argue renewable energy would be more competitive if fossil fuel plants had to pay a carbon tax."

Of course, Horsley also omitted that even with hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars, solar power firms such as Solyndra collapsed. The Big Three networks also minimized the Solyndra scandal when it broke in 2011.

The full transcript of Scott Horsley's report from Thursday's All Things Considered on NPR:

DON GONYEA: President Obama wants to shrink the federal government's carbon footprint. With 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles, the government is the nation's single largest energy consumer. Obama signed an executive order today directing agencies to get more of their power from clean energy sources.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from press conference): We're going to cut the federal government's greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from the 2008 levels within the next ten years.

GONYEA: The government is already nearly halfway there, thanks, in part, to a boom in wind and solar energy.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama announced his executive order this morning, after climbing to the rooftop of the U.S. Energy Department, where he inspected 66 flat, square solar panels.

OBAMA: Those panels are not just for show. They produce power that the government doesn't then have to buy off the grid.

HORSLEY: The federal government now gets nearly 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources – triple the amount when Obama came into office. The President wants to more than triple that figure again by 2025.

OBAMA: More and more businesses, and more and more homeowners are following suit.

HORSLEY: Nationwide, wind energy production has more than tripled since 2008, while solar power has increased more than twenty-fold. The two still account for less than five percent of overall power production, but that figure is growing rapidly.

Renewable power got an unlikely Republican boost this week. Former Secretary of State George Shultz penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling clean energy a kind of insurance policy against the threat of climate change.
            
GEORGE SHULTZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE (from phone interview): What's driving it is an increasing recognition that there's a real problem here. And that has attracted people, and it's also attracted funding.

HORSLEY: Shultz put solar panels on his own home six years ago, and says they've already paid for themselves. They also help to power the electric car he uses to drive around campus at Stanford.

SHULTZ: I figure I'm driving on sunshine, and the cost of my fuel is zero.

HORSLEY: Energy expert Severin Borenstein of U.C. Berkeley says without government subsidies, solar power still costs two to four times as much as electricity from a natural gas power plant. But that price gap is shrinking, and wind power is even less expensive.

SEVERIN BORENSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY (from phone interview): Per kilowatt hour, wind power is now cheaper than gas plants in many areas. The problem is that it produces at a time when electricity is generally least valuable.

HORSLEY: That's because it's often windiest at nighttime. Improvements in battery technology might help solve that timing problem. Advocates, like Schultz and Borenstein, also argue renewable energy would be more competitive if fossil fuel plants had to pay a carbon tax.

In the meantime, Obama wants the government to set an example. Borenstein says what really counts is whether the government's own massive buying power helps lower the cost of clean energy enough to be attractive in countries like China and India.

BORENSTEIN: Because if we don't solve this problem in the developing world, we're not solving the problem.

HORSLEY: Negotiators hope to strike an international climate agreement in Paris later this year. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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