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Khosla, Romm Fire Back At '60 Minutes' Cleantech Exposé 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sure-the-25-elderly-couples-that-watched-the-piece-will-appreciate-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CBS recently aired a segment on its 60 Minutes TV newsmagazine critical of what it referred to as the 'Cleantech' industry, i.e. clean energy startups, often founded by Silicon Valley/IT businessmen and engineers. Correspondent Lesley Stahl adapted the familiar confrontational 60 Minutes style when interviewing venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, an investor in biofuel startup KiOR and dozens of other clean energy businesses, then following up with other industry experts who appear to refute Khosla's assertions. Stahl ran down a list of high profile taxpayer-subsidized industry failures and suggests that private investors such as Khosla seem to be losing money as well. Khosla has just responded in the form of an open letter to CBS News which lists allegedly false and inaccurate statements in the 60 Minutes program, while pointing out that the fossil fuels industry is also heavily subsidized by government. Khosla, a longtime general partner at Kleiner Perkins before starting his own firm, was one of four Stanford graduate students who co-founded Sun Microsystems in the early 1980s. Physicist and climate blogger Joseph Romm posted a response to what he referred to as the '60 Minutes hit job on clean energy' last week; other environmentalists have also weighed in."
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Khosla, Romm Fire Back At '60 Minutes' Cleantech Exposé

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  • by ebonum (830686) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:13AM (#45962465)

    What are you talking about? Didn't you see the 60 Minutes/NSA love fest?

    • by ebonum (830686) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:19AM (#45962483)

      I would have respect for 60 Minutes, if they started the NSA interviews with: "A lot of people think you should be in jail and branded a traitor to your country. You seem to act with complete disregard of the Constitution and you wrongly assumed you wouldn't get caught. Plus, you haven't stopped any terrorism, you live in secret with no over site, you've pissed away billions in taxpayer money and all the while you are drawing crazy high pay. What say you?"

      That is the "familiar confrontational 60 Minutes style"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The Free press hasn't been free for a long time and the problem is you/we have done nothing to fix it and will continue to do nothing.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Not the greatest example. Just because someone holds a stupid opinion or one that is different from yours doesn't mean they weren't free to make that opinion. You're not going to get anywhere if you just pretend people who support that BS of their own will don't exist.
      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:27AM (#45963221) Journal

        That is the "familiar confrontational 60 Minutes style"

        I escaped from communist China in the early 1970's, and when I landed on the United States of America, I was totally awed by many things that I could never ever dream of when I was in China.

        One of those was the integrity of the journalists of the United States of America.

        The Vietnam War was on at that time, and there was plenty of "Patriotism" in America in such that "if you don't agree with us you get outta here" attitude, but yet, there were journalists who braved the societal norm in reporting (and printing the news in the newspapers) what actually took place in Vietnam.

        Many of those journalists were called "traitors" and they were treated as "Viet Cong Supporters" back then, but yet, their integrity remained intact and report the news as it was (not the propaganda the government wanted them to report).

        And the subsequent episode of the dethronement of Richard (I am not a crook) Nixon because of the "deep throat" saga.

        I was totally awed by the bravery and the diamond-hardened integrity of those American journalists.

        Today ? American journalism ?

        Ptuuuuiiii !!

        • "It's that fool on television getting paid to play the fool."

          There are plenty of independent journalists doing real reporting: Michael Totten [worldaffairsjournal.org] and Michael Yon [michaelyon-online.com] are two.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Define integrity. Many of them were more of the direction of what Jane Fonda did rather than the glowing thing you're making them out to be.
          (Hint: Jane Fonda committed an act of Treason as defined by Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution. She should have been arrested upon return to the country and put on trial for the same- and probably should have served at least 10 years and got the minimum fine defined by 18 USC 2381. It should be noted that 18 USC 2381 calls for execution outright and then spec

          • Ok, I now know more about Jane Fonda and the Vietnam war than I did earlier today, thanks AC. Full Disclosure: I was born in the late seventies, so everything after this is based on research, not on personal memories of events.

            First of all, Jane was acting as she did in North Vietnam because she was upset about the bombings of dikes and levies, which had the potential to kill tens of thousands of civilians. In that sense, journalists were doing similar work by trying to expose the inhumanities of war and

            • by whitroth (9367)

              Ok, you want to talk about the Vietnam War... and how many of the assholes on slashdot are dissing you were even *born* then? And how many of them were in combat in, say, Iraq?

              I'd guess that approaches zero as a limit.

              Fact: after Dien Bien Phu, in 1954, the UN supervised the ->militaryallowed- the referendum to go forth, 80% of the country would have voted for Ho, who they viewed as the George Washington of their country, having led the fight, first against the Japanese during the War, then against the F

              • Mark, I'm not sure if I offended you with my post, but if I did, I apologize. I am well aware that Pres. Nixon did. I heard a number around 50,000+ Americans needlessly died because he wanted to be president. IIRC it was president Johnson's library that released audio tapes talking about wiretaps on the South Vietnamese Ambassador that showed Nixon was secretly doing everything he could to keep the war from ending going back to 1968.

                I feel really bad for the soldiers that couldn't avoid the draft. My fa

        • I was totally awed by the bravery and the diamond-hardened integrity of those American journalists.

          Today ? American journalism ?

          Ptuuuuiiii !!

          I think you'll find that Journalism is like computer games or popular music... there's a HUGE amount of trash out there, and amidst the trash, a few diamonds. As the years go by, the diamonds are kept/remembered, and the rest goes in the landfill of time.

          For example, look at yellow journalism [wikipedia.org] -- that developed out of a feud between Hearst and Pulitzer, and ended up using the Spanish-American war to drive readership.

          There are still dedicated journalists today; they're just usually not heard amidst the clamo

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        Sadly, we don't don't live in the multiverse universe where that actually happened. Lucky bastards, that would have been one seriously enjoyable squirm session.

        "...I'm sure you think that your actions were justified, but were you aware that many Americans think you're a pigeon fondling goat f*cker who Ben Franklin himself would probably have happily executed for treason?"

      • by prelelat (201821)

        They probably made a deal in order to do the interview and they probably dictated the type of questions that could be asked. If they deviated they would most likely have either gave some BS question or ended the interview leaving them with nothing for ratings.

        The person doing the interview would have been given questions to stay away from and 60 minutes would be happy to have such a high profile person they would have done what they were asked. It's not news it's a stage show.

      • by cyberchondriac (456626) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:07PM (#45966535) Journal
        I'm not disputing that the NSA has far overstepped their bounds, but also bear in mind we don't really know what terrorism they may or may not have stopped. They're not likely to publicly publish their doings, good or bad, to avoid tipping off enemies (among other obvious things). Exposing anything about their accomplishments, in anything other than the vaguest detail which would satisfy no one here, could also potentially expose their methodologies or contacts, or at least, point to a clue. It's not their protocol to take those risks, which also becomes very convenient for them. Such is the nature of security.
        Granted, they didn't stop the Boston bombers, but there might have been other attempts we aren't told about that they foiled. Or maybe there weren't. But I'm not going to assume either way.
        • If the NSA is willing to spout easily refuted BS like "We prevented China from destroying thousands of computers with malware" as part of their media response to Snowden's disclosures, I'm pretty sure they'd be happily advertising any terrorism they'd thwarted. I'm actually surprised they aren't just making shit up to win hearts and minds, but I guess they still don't know just what info Snowden handed over, so that could blow up in their faces.

      • Would you be so critical if they got an interview with Snowden and kissed his ass? I only ask because it seems like everyone on sites like /. and reddit think he's a hero and god forbid that you disagree with that assertion in anyway because you will be called a fascist, NSA boot licker, etc. FYI...I'm not making this up. This has happened to me numerous times.

    • by tchdab1 (164848)

      And Lara Logan's firing, or rather suspension, or at least a long unwanted vacation from 60 minutes after airing that, um. false Benghazi piece by Morgan Jones who turned out to be Dylan Davies with a different story for US government agencies - Surely 60 minutes apologizes sufficiently when it turns out to be made up!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What are you talking about? Didn't you see the 60 Minutes/NSA love fest?

      What if "national security" meant socio-political control of the populace to maintain the status quo and thus securing the interests of corporate America. Could that be why civil-rights, privacy-rights, anti-war activism, etc. are heavily monitored? [wikipedia.org] Perhaps that's why they would add to the 'enemies of the state' list clean-energy and ecology activists. [theguardian.com]

      Noam Chomsky proved decades ago journalistic integrity is dead. [youtube.com]

      This is the Age of Information. World War III was fought long ago, and the world's citizens

    • Paid "news", funded by the oil+coal guys.

      Coal+oil companies are on a disinformation campaign about traffic, pollution, accidents, global warming, economic costs, and a host of crazy, irrational arguments. Their common conclusion "pollution and waste is the better alternative"

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExxonMobil#Funding_of_global_warming_disinformation_and_denial [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_activities_of_the_Koch_brothers#Fossil_fue [wikipedia.org]

      • The Cleantech industry, as described, has a HUGE amount of money being funneled into it from taxpayers through the government - true across the world. There's just as much money at play on that side as oil+gas, why do you think the side with just as much money at stake, and MORE if it coming from subsidies rather than actual profits, is innocent of wrong-doing?

        Don't like government subsidies of oil? Neither do I but that subsidy PALES in comparison to the kickbacks and graft going on every day in the supp

        • Uhhh... so the cleantech industry receives "just as much money" as the $500 billion per year in taxpayer subsidies given to oil and gas companies? Do you have any source to support that allegation besides your CAPS LOCK key?
  • What a surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Indy1 (99447) <spamtrap@fuckedregime.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:24AM (#45962505) Homepage

    Like most press, 60 minutes engages in the run of the mill "assault journalism" thats heavy on accusations, and light on the facts. Anyone who takes ANY journalist at face value needs to be hit with a clue by 4.

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:39AM (#45962821)

      I still find some press trustworthy in a general sense (i.e. identify that particular publication's interests, and look in them for articles about things that aren't about it).

      Also there's the whole "I like the old BBC foreign reporters who openly reported truth about Falkalands War in face of massive opposition from everyone in their country from government to right wing press".
      Sadly most of these guys now work for Al-Jazeera after UK bureaucrats finally got their dream of firing all those inconvenient people when BBC was downsized a few years ago. Incidentally Al-Jazeera was trying to build up its own english language publication at the same time, so most of them ended up there. And for a while, the stuff they reported on was absolutely amazing. You'd get videos on Al-Jazeera of all those same middle aged brit reporters right in the middle of conflict zone reporting on various massively inconvenient facts. Even to their employer.

      You still do, but sadly they came down on them now quite a bit, but it's still functional as yet another counter-balance to propaganda machine we have here in the West.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:40AM (#45962561) Journal

    It doesn't matter what is true, only what people believe is true.

    There is a lot of money at stake if anyone pokes holes in the narrative that 'green energy is a job killing boondoggle.'
    Even more important than money, there are ideological principles at risk if Big Government is shown to succeed at [anything].

    The real tragedy of it all is that the USA needs a comprehensive and coherent energy policy.
    When the government tells everyone what it is focusing on and where it will be spending money,
    big business can follow because they know that their expenditures will not be a solo risk.

    Instead we've ended up with unconnected subsidies that still get treated with aggressive hostility by conservative voices.
    Their solution? More fracking and more coal. Not exactly a progressive or forward looking vision of our future.

    • The USA doesn't have a comprehensive policy because anything it does will be un-done as soon as power passes to the other party. Look at the recent repeal of the lighting energy efficiency standard, for example. With the two parties constantly bickering and trying to undermine each other, and the balance of power shifting every few years, commitment is a serious problem.

      If the US government coul commit to anything beyond the next term of office, they'd have their flag on Mars by now.

    • Got to be careful with the 'job killing' thing. Remember that businesses strive to minimise costs, and often an efficiency gain is what kills the jobs - a new technology allows one person to do a task that used to take ten, destroying nine jobs. It isn't as simple as it seems, because even if the jobs are lost the lower cost of production is then passed on to customers, lowering prices.

    • that still get treated with aggressive hostility by conservative voices.

      Come on, there's no point in turning it into a political fight. Remember Bush was a big fan of wind power, and even acknowledged that global warming is a problem, by the end. Then again, Bush did turn kind of weird by the end. Weird in a good way. By which I mean, he didn't get any of his goals done. Which was good compared to his first term.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032)

      The real tragedy of it all is that the USA needs a comprehensive and coherent energy policy.

      Bullshit.

      What the USA needs w/r/t energy is for the government to fuck off and let supply and demand sort it out. When solar power becomes more cost effective than natural gas, it won't take tax money to make it happen.

      -jcr

      • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:19AM (#45963445)

        Amory Lovins, the well known clean-tech maven, agrees with you. He advocates removing all energy subsidies to create a truly level playing field. But the Big-Oil crowd will never let that happen, because they know that without the massive support they get from the government, they would rapidly be crushed by competition from renewables. In the end, it doesn't matter though, because renewables keep getting better and cheaper while fossil fuels keep getting more expensive. It's just a matter of time.

        • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:08AM (#45963641)

          Also, that cheap energy is a key driver of the rest of the economy. Cheap power and transport is what lets other industries thrive. It makes shipping goods halfway around the world and back economical, allowing for production to be consolidated in large factories to benefit from an economy of scale (and cheaper labor costs/regulations) and brings down the cost of goods. Cheap petrol allows convenient long-distance travel - the car created the suburbs, by allowing people to commute to work further from home. Businesses drawing in customers from a large area allows for the existence of the mega-store and shopping mall. Take away the cheap, subsidised energy and there will be knock-on effects in other industries.

          • EVERYBODY wants cheap energy, INCLUDING ENVIRONMENTALISTS!

            The only difference is that environmentalists want cheap energy including externalities, and in the long run while others only consider what is cheapest now and in the immediate future.

          • You do realize that's an argument for Socialism, right?

            • Socialism has many good arguments, but also a number of fatal flaws which no-one has yet managed to solve on a large scale. It breaks down rapidly once you get beyond a small closed community.

        • by sycodon (149926)

          Can you enlighten us all and tell us where the fossil fuel industry is being given checks for hundreds of millions of dollars like in the case of Solyndra , etc?

          Because reducing the amount of money you take out of a functioning, profitable enterprise is not the same as handing money to a company that doesn't produce anything, sell anything, let alone make any kind of profit.

          • Some significant fraction of our military is charged with keeping the Middle East oil fields reasonably open and stable. Billions of dollars of investment credits are given to oil companies to develop oil and natural gas plays. Significant environmental protections have not been given to, for example, hydraulic frackking operations, because 'they were too expensive'. And that's just a couple off the top of my head.

            This entire economy runs on monetary policy that encourages displacement for various social

            • by sycodon (149926)

              Some significant fraction of our military is charged with maintaining the Freedom of the Seas. So I guess we are subsidizing all of American commerce that ships or imports stuff via cargo ships.

              Investment Credits are simply tax reductions. Taking less is not the same as handing out.

              Fracking has been going on for decades. There is nothing really new about that technology and nothing new about the supposed environmental impacts. What they didn't do was burden the process with new "Significant environmental pr

              • by Rich0 (548339)

                Some significant fraction of our military is charged with maintaining the Freedom of the Seas. So I guess we are subsidizing all of American commerce that ships or imports stuff via cargo ships.

                Well, we need a Navy, and it doesn't cost all that much more for them to respond to the occasional ship in distress. The incremental cost of that has to be quite a bit lower than Gulf War I/II. If Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Syria were countries in the middle of Africa nobody would care about them at all. Oil is what causes us to spend incredible fortunes securing these areas.

                If they just recovered it via a tax on imported oil that would probably fix a lot of problems. For starters, you'd have a lot more lo

      • by anagama (611277)

        What the USA needs w/r/t energy is for the government to fuck off and let supply and demand sort it out.

        Exactly how will that unicorn market recognize the ancillary costs associated with producing and using fossil fuels, which are shifted on to the commons so that a few may experience extreme private profit. I too would like to see all industries be treated fairly, but exactly how is that going to happen when the market has no builtin mechanism to prevent common resources from being in effect, stolen? Asid

    • Anyone with half a brain in their head can compare the energy density of oil (41.9MJ/Kg) versus Uranium (570,000MJ/Kg) versus any and every other energy source available and conclude pretty easily that atomic energy is where we should be focusing our efforts. Given the fact that we already have the technology working, why would we be wasting so much time, effort, and money for alternative sources?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        There are always tradeoffs - sure the fuel quantity is small, but that is offset by the relative cost of building the power plant and the size area to serve - putting a nuclear power plant in rural Montana is probably not effective because the power must be transmitted far away. Better to have the power come from several smaller, local power plants or even generators on each ranch. Even if nuclear is the source of choice for electricity, there is still an argument for whether batteries, fuel cells, or bio

  • Who cares. The only people that watch this show are people that fell asleep in front of their tv 20 years ago.

    Irrelevant show is irrelevant.

    • Who cares. The only people that watch this show are people that fell asleep in front of their tv 20 years ago.

      But they have the money to support the campaigns that touch on the issues they care about and wake up each November in time to vote.

      • yes, older voters do watch them... but what are we going to do about that? The generational disconnect is so stark that its unbridgeable. They're a different country and a different culture.

  • From the letter:

    Fact: The U.S. spent $502 billion subsidizing fossil fuels in 2011. This is the result of directly lowered prices, tax breaks and failing to properly price carbon’s negative externalities.

    What pricetag is he attaching to carbon's negative externalities? This article, cited in a comment on an earlier Slashdot story on solar energy, pegs it at $1 trillion, and it seems like they asked Austin Powers what he thought it should be. What is Khosla's pricetag for carbon externalities, and where did he get it?

      • So in reading that little article it looks like the actual cash giveaways from government to the entire fossil fuel industry worldwide by all governments are ~$300 billion. The quoted 1.3 trillion subsidy would seem to be a rather made up number, to quote the article:

        The largest contributor to the subsidies is the failure to properly price carbon pollution, costing a little over $1 trillion.

        Then there is this little tid bit about how to correct this situation and the subsidy from the US:

        According to CleanTechnica, the IMF has estimated that in order for the US to correct the situation, it will need to setup a new system of fees, levies, and taxes that will cost more than $500 billion a year.

        But earlier in the article they quoted the United States subsidy as being about ~$502 billion.

        • by Bongo (13261)

          If I don't have kids, does the world owe me a million dollars, for all the "externalises" I have saved? I am sure it is more than that, actually.

          I am fond of the notion that real wealth is people inventing new clever stuff that saves us all having to own slaves or be slaves. Everything else seems to be made up money, printing money, carbon credits, etc. If someone invented a cheap way to cure cancer, that would take a massive burden off the health system. If politicians are just arguing over which of their

        • subsidy misnomer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by camg188 (932324) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:18AM (#45964021)

          cash giveaways from government to the entire fossil fuel industry

          The last I checked, no cash was being given away to oil companies. Some people use the term "subsidies" for political purposes when a more accurate definition would be "doing business with."
          The two biggest so-called subsidies are the strategic oil reserve and HEAP heating assistance. Both of which involve the government simply buying fuel, not handing out money.

          It would be like saying that Boeing is subsidized because the government bought a bunch of jets from them.

          • The last I checked, no cash was being given away to oil companies.

            Not sure what direct subsidies they're talking about, but depreciation is going to be one--I bet tax depreciation on oil company infrastructure is well above economic depreciation. That means FEDGOV is giving them a subsidy.

            For example, if they can depreciate a piece of infrastructure over 20 years and it lasts 40, they get to write off (i.e. not pay taxes) on more than their actual loss as a business expense, in effect getting a tax subsidy from the government. (Lowering taxes is the same as giving a sub

            • by MobyDisk (75490)

              Since those subsidies are given to all companies, I think it is out-of-scope for this discussion. The grandparent was probably intending to talk about subsidies specific to oil companies only.

          • by operagost (62405)
            The second biggest source of this "subsidy" number includes tax deductions. The difference between these and the handouts given to green energy companies is quite obvious. The free money to green companies is like your dad buying you a car outright. The tax deductions are like you working your butt off to buy a car, then your dad being so impressed that he gives you the money that you spent to buy it.
          • by MobyDisk (75490)

            Add military defense into your list of subsidies. The US military patrols the middle eastern waters, and also provides military assistance for Saudi Arabia.

            A counter to the subsidies is the gas tax.

            • by Rich0 (548339)

              Yup. If you want to know how much the US spends subsidizing oil, just look at how much money we've spent on Iran, Iraq, and Syria in comparison to Sudan, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.

          • > The last I checked, no cash was being given away to oil companies.

            I am guessing you don't check often or you check in the wrong places (like Faux News).

            Energy subsidies
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_subsidies#Allocation_of_subsidies_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

            As Oil Industry Fights a Tax, It Reaps Subsidies
            http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html?pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]

            These subsidies have been the subject of frequent battles in the lame US Congress.

            Either way please read up on this crap and go cr

  • by retroworks (652802) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:15AM (#45962941) Homepage Journal

    What's disturbing is when they not only got it wrong, but get an Emmy and other journalism awards for an erroneous story. When it comes to tech, they are really out of their element. MIT Study disproves the allegation? Original source admits to fabricating statistics they report? The journalist community never gives themselves an asterisk for gotcha-news-on-steroids. Do a little background on the biggest award winner in 60 Minutes stable, Wasteland. Huge accolades. But source admitted fabricating data, MIT studies prove it wrong. Journalists just cannot cover tech.

    The closest thing to ombudsman or peer review is John Stewart or Colbert Report, and they are not exactly techies. Seems impossible to get misreported tech stories corrected. It's like asking an English major to take a Calculus class over again. if it was too complicated for the reporter to get right the first time, they don't want to go back again.

    They should give a Polk or Pelley award to Ira Glass, NPR's "This American Life", for going back on his story about Apple and Foxconn in 2012. That was really classy, and it also told an important lesson on how easy it is for a reporter to swallow passionately delivered bullshit about the "juju" of high technology.http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2012/03/retracting-mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

    • by Fulminata (999320)
      It's not just tech. TV journalism in general, and 60 Minutes in particular, gets it wrong all the time. 60 Minutes is notorious for going into every story knowing what their conclusion is going to be from the beginning and then framing and editing every second of their coverage to support that pre-determined conclusion.

      This isn't something new. Before I got into the tech industry I worked in insurance for a major US retailer back in the 90s. While there, 60 Minutes did an "expose" on the dangers of shoppi
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:39AM (#45963535)

    1) the 60min program was about cleantech. All the comments about oil being worse, carbon emission externalities, global warming, etc. are pointless. Is not that they are not true, is that the money invested in cleantech should maybe have been invested differently: "this people flushed 100 billion down the drain!" (if it were true) is not justified with "but these others burned 500 billion in a bonfire!" (even if it were also true). There are obvious problems with fossil fuels and lots of money where used to try to find a solution, the program's thesis is that that money was not correctly expended. So please avoid going about GW woes time and time again.

    2) After reading the script and Khosla's allegations, I am with CBS.

    3) I am not from the USA (and so it was not my money what was allegedly wasted), so I think I have a more detached position here. Many of the comments seem to simply attack CBS because the program did not acknowledge their pre existing political ideas. I think that is wrong, unless you can articulate your objections.

    4) The idea that the program conveys is that the money spent gave not good results and then much of that invested is sold at great loss to chinese investors that probably will benefit more than the USA taxpayers. I think that the program succeeds in that.

    5) Even so, maybe some of the cleantech projects will ultimately succeed and gave back so many benefits that covers all the failures we see now (that is one of the opinions from Khosla), but I find the right now doubtful. Even the company many cite as successful (Tesla), is right now just a company that makes expensive luxury cars to enormously wealthy people (of course that can chang in the future, but it is so right now), if that is the best outcome of so many public money invested, the results are really bad.

    • by aitikin (909209) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:45AM (#45964249)

      5) Even so, maybe some of the cleantech projects will ultimately succeed and gave back so many benefits that covers all the failures we see now (that is one of the opinions from Khosla), but I find the right now doubtful. Even the company many cite as successful (Tesla), is right now just a company that makes expensive luxury cars to enormously wealthy people (of course that can chang in the future, but it is so right now), if that is the best outcome of so many public money invested, the results are really bad.

      I don't have time right now to address the other issues you've pointed out, but I feel the need to point out that you're wrong about Tesla. As a 2010 post on non-other than slashdot references, Tesla makes the drivetrain for the RAV4EV [slashdot.org], which ends up being about a $20k premium over the equivalent, gasoline based RAV4. Additionally, Tesla has paid off their subsidized loans early [slashdot.org]. In even more recent news, Musk was on CNN's New Day in a a prerecorded interview this morning commenting on how they're working on a new car that's going to be more reasonably priced (about 1/2 the price of the Model S) to be released in about 3 years.

      Frankly, if it takes a company 13 years to go from no product, to 5 years later an extremely high end, only the super rich can afford situation to a situation, that's fine, then 8 years later they're at hey, an upper middle class, or even middle class individual can afford their vehicle, I'd consider that reasonable. Especially if they decided that it was more important to pay off their debts first.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        $20K is a huge premium.

        My car consumes around than 10L/100Km, around 23.5MPG (that is not the "official" efficiency, but the real one I get). Let's say you do 30000Km/year (18600miles/year), in three years that is 90000Km or 9000L of gas (a bit less than 2400gallons). Yesterday I paid 1.4€/L (that is, $7.21/gallon), so the 3 years gas costs 12,600€ or $17K. Even if the recharging and range problems were solved, even if the electricity were free, and even at european gas prices, an electric car for

      • by ddt (14627)

        Agreed. A lot of people aren't aware of the financing model that Tesla came up with, either. It's a steep monthly note, but your recharges are free, and even if they weren't, the cost would be noise. It would be illuminating to see a true use case comparison between owning a Tesla and a gasoline car given the high price of fuel today.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Tesla makes the drivetrain for the RAV4EV, which ends up being about a $20k premium over the equivalent, gasoline based RAV4....Frankly, if it takes a company 13 years to go from no product, to 5 years later an extremely high end, only the super rich can afford situation to a situation, that's fine, then 8 years later they're at hey, an upper middle class, or even middle class individual can afford their vehicle, I'd consider that reasonable.

        I wouldn't consider a car with a $20k premium above a price that is already over $20k upper-middle class. Upper-middle class is being able to afford a RAV4 with a conventional drive train in the first place.

        US median household income is about $50k/yr.

        That aside, I'm not really opposed to R&D benefiting the rich before it benefits the poor, or the fact that sometimes it takes 10 years to really pay off. That's the kind of research the government really should be funding in the first place. It really s

        • by aitikin (909209)
          You obviously missed my point by removing details from the quote. The upper middle class car that I'm talking about is the vehicle that Tesla is claiming will be to market in approximately 3 years and will be in the $35k range. Tesla was founded in 2003, 5 years later, the Roadster came out, 8 years after that, they're aiming to have an upper middle class price point.
          • by Rich0 (548339)

            You obviously missed my point by removing details from the quote. The upper middle class car that I'm talking about is the vehicle that Tesla is claiming will be to market in approximately 3 years and will be in the $35k range. Tesla was founded in 2003, 5 years later, the Roadster came out, 8 years after that, they're aiming to have an upper middle class price point.

            I did miss that, but doesn't really change my point. $35k cars are owned by the wealthy, not the upper-middle-class. How is somebody making somewhat over $50k/yr household income going to buy a $35k car?

            I do get that over time their products will become more affordable.

            • by aitikin (909209)

              My friend (a 24 year old mechanic at the time working one job and having one heck of an alcohol habit) bought a car that originally retailed for nearly $40k without putting too much thought into it.

              The upper-middle class can afford a $35k car if they want it enough or if they buy used. The middle class individual hits 50k according to your information, figure a 5 year loan, 10% down, 4.9% interest (which is a high rate for the current market) the monthly payment is approximately $600/mon ($7200/yr) buying

              • by Rich0 (548339)

                Fair enough. Maybe I've just never seen a car as something I'd want to sink 15% of my income into, but then I wasn't into the fashion of getting my ARM adjusted by the government either...

  • But I don't think you know what it means...

    while pointing out that the fossil fuels industry is also heavily subsidized by government

    Every single, solitary last time I've seen this argument trotted out by environmentalists, leftists, etc. the only thing they can point to is the various governments involved giving them tax credits. In their minds, letting the fossil fuel industry keep more of its revenue is akin to the various loans and other goodies thrown at the clean energy sector.

    • It's worse than that. The largest of the "subsidies" that you have to include to get to the $1.3T figure they throw around is "negative externalities." Essentially, the environmentalists are making the argument that they want to create a "carbon tax" that they charge to energy companies, which the guy quoted in the article says would collect a total of $550 billion per year.

      The carbon tax he's talking about isn't a law that's on the books. It's a proposal for a law that he wants the government to pass. An

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        If we implement the "carbon tax" for 10 minutes then remove it. Is that a $500B benefit, a tax that was reversed, a $500B penalty to green industry that dont benefit from the removal of the tax? Its all just semantics.What if we ban CO2 and the business loses Trillions, that's a penalty, if we dont is that a benefit?
        Fact is CO2 or any kind of polution is damaging and you have no price for it, people who benefit from pumping it out are getting a huge benefit whatever that $ amount is. Letting people/compan
    • "A subsidy [wikipedia.org] is a form of financial or in kind support extended to an economic sector..."

      Direct payments are only one form of subsidy. I'm not arguing that we should or shouldn't offer tax breaks to one industry or another, I'm just suggesting that it is you who does not know what that word means. Offering a tax break for one activity over another favors the activity that has a lower effective tax rate.

  • 60 Minutes quite often uses lies and half-truths to enrage their viewing audience and trick them into feeling like they've had the wool pulled from over their eyes to reveal some secret, evil truth about the world. Then next week or the week after they will have a 15-second "retraction" that nobody even listens to talking about what they knowingly lied about.
  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:20AM (#45964039)
    I noticed these three myopic talking points nestled in Khosla's rebuttal.

    Fact: Contrary to your assertion, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program has created 55,000 new cleantech jobs.

    For the first one, this is a notorious gimmick in public works projects these days in the US. Speak of the all the wonderful jobs that have been created while ignoring that jobs have been lost via opportunity cost from tax revenue taken and lost on bankrupt companies and poor use of funds.

    Fact: The DOE loan program, despite your implications, has a 97% success rate. The former program head, Jonathan Silver, expects it to make money, not be a subsidy.

    And the "97% success rate" is for companies that haven't yet gone bankrupt in the few years since the category of loans were given (2009 and after). There's been no evaluation of the value of DoE loan projects that were undertaken or whether these will be able to pay off the loans in the long run.

    For example, I've seen debt issued of $4 per watt of solar generation. That's rather high especially given that the companies in question could have done a PV installation for up to half that cost.

    Fact: There is $51 billion remaining in DOE loan money. The amounts in the CBS report are far from âoespentâ or allocated. You seem to want to cite big numbers, whether they are true or not!

    In any private business with proper accounting procedures, they would have to put something like the DOE loan guarantees on its balance sheet as a liability. Those funds might not be spent, but they would be allocated. The US government can just pretend it doesn't exist legally.

    > That's it for the main problems. That's half his claims made. I also am dubious of the claim that the US subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of half a trillion a year, especially the "failing to properly price carbonâ(TM)s negative externalities" which probably makes up a lion's share of that alleged subsidy.

    • The war on oil continues to throw about the claim that fossil fuels are subsidized. Nobody ever challenges them on how they determine a subsidy. The fact is, the fossil fuel industry doesn't receive ANY subsidies. It's all a slight rephrasing of the truth that allows them to get away with making this claim. Basically, when an oil company spends money on new research and development, they are allowed to deduct the costs of this research and development from their earnings. Thus, if they spend 1 billion
      • The fact is, the fossil fuel industry doesn't receive ANY subsidies.

        Bullshit.

        In 2009:

        • Tenaska's Taylorville Energy Center – loan coverage $2.6 billion for a 730 MW coal-fired IGCC with CCS.
        • Leucadia's Indiana Gasification SNG project – loan coverage of $1.6 billion to produce Substitute Natural Gas (syngas) from coal for sale to customers in Indiana, with proposed carbon capture for enhanced oil recovery.
        • Leucadia's Mississippi Gasification SNG project – loan coverage of $1.689 billion to produce syngas from petroleum coke feedstock, for sale to electric util
        • by khallow (566160)
          Looks the same to me as well. I would discontinue these subsidies for the very same reason I would discontinue the "Solyndra" subsidies.
  • Don Hewitt, who I believe created 60 Minutes, died in 2009. Since then, it seems that the shift has been largely to interesting puff pieces with little of the old confrontational stuff they built their reputation on. My wife and I continue to watch but it's at least partly out of habit. They also pad their shows a lot with older material, and the digital TV guide calls it a "new show" even when it's mostly reruns. Smells like old fashioned corporate backsliding.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Funny thing. Khosla didn't have any problem with 60 Minutes' puff piece, a few years ago, when they gave him all that free advertising with his Bloombox investment. Bloom was sure to change everything. Micro generators in every home. Energy independence. Clean energy. Blah blah blah.

    Where's the FANTASTIC Bloombox benefits? Sure the company is still chugging along, sucking down subsidies as it hangs off the VC tit, but what have they done for energy? A bunch of experiments and VC opportunities do NOT transla

  • I used to have a lot of respect for 60. Since Rather was let go, Wallace, Bradley and Rooney passed away, the show just doesn't feel the same. There was definitely more integrity to the show 5 to 10 years ago. I'm not just talking about recent pieces that have taken criticism. The show has access to people and places few other shows have because of the history and reputation. I'm not sure how much longer that will hold up either.

    I'm sorry 60 Minutes. You should really be more careful before releasing future

  • ``Follow the money.''

    CBS seems to run more energy industry ads than any other network so it doesn't really surprise me to hear that they're running 60 Minutes segments that are hostile to something that threatens the incumbent energy companies. Tune in on Sunday morning and each and every commercial break has at least one ad from an energy-related (usually oil) company or from a group that lobbies for the energy industry. I stopped watching the talking heads on Sunday mornings because of the incessant ene

  • Journalism != let's make a story about _______, go find evidence to support it. Journalism = let's find out what's actually going on with _____ and report about it.
  • If someone could harness the angular momentum produced by the 60 Minutes spin department, we could do away with fossil fuels tomorrow.

    "In response to the letter, a 60 Minutes spokesman said in an email: “While we respect Mr. Khosla’s view, we are not in agreement with the points he makes about our story, which we began and ended with him and devoted much of to his ideas and to one of the companies he backs.”"

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