I Love Solar. Trust Me, I’m a Journalism Major

In the early days of automobile manufacturing there were over 2.000 car manufacturers in the US alone.  Today maybe 10 worldwide?

Between 1919 and 1939 there were over 300 aircraft manufacturing companies operating in the US. Today in the west there are primarily only Boeing and Airbus plus aircraft defense contractors who are only in business because they are supported by government defense spending.

We all know what happened in the dot com boom. Amazon, iTunes, and google are left standing, even Yahoo is teetering.

You don’t have to believe me.  Read this article from 1999. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1999/11/22/269071/ you might believe him, he has a pretty good track record.

Enter Solar

But in their Oct 28 editorial opinion, none of these inconvenient facts stop the knowledgeable liberal arts grads* (Dokes, McBride, Ryan) of the AZ Republic editorial staff from  “basking in the glow of an industry (solar)” and reiterating that “momentum is building” in this emerging market. They tell you the growth is “fueled” by the state of Arizona and local Arizona towns by your elected officials spending your tax dollars to help build up the nascent solar industry in the valley. They even mention GY, which is no big surprise since AZ Republic endorsed all the GY council incumbents who continue to improperly spend your money but who also went on to win in the last election.

In their ultimate wisdom, these journalism/communications majors, who may have flunked or withdrawn from math and business courses and still graduated, write with positive certainty based upon (I assume) their extensive knowledge of solar.  Here’s the editorial in case you missed it.  AZR solar opinion0001

The first thing you might notice in their opinion is that there are no references to the potential for business success or really any other facts that would support any of their optimism. They don’t mention what the long term market might be, does it make economic sense, how many competitors there are, and will the US ever be competitive in this area given cheap foreign labor? They would prefer to “visualize” the sun on the state flag of Arizona in order to convince you of the “sunburst effect” of this industry on Arizona.  (I’m not kidding, just read it.  And this passes for responsible journalism).

In essence they seem to feel comfortable saying, “Trust me, I know, I’m a journalism major” .

You might also recognize their weak attempt to appear to be at least a little bit unbiased. Of course this is placed in the third to LAST paragraph of the opinion.  Here, they bring the warning to us saying that we must be watchful because all this solar growth could be like the housing industry and create a bubble.

But housing has always recovered, you might think. So what’s the big deal?

Comparing the emerging solar industry to the centuries old and already competitively sorted out housing industry reveals just how uniformed misguided (but clever) journalism grads can be.  By comparing solar to the housing industry one who might disagree with their position must accept a wide range of premises in order to make a counter argument. A clever debate technique but I’m not biting in this case, and I’m not even going to give them that much credit for being that clever.  I think they just don’t know what they are talking about.

When making a case for spending taxpayer money on the emerging solar industry it is not appropriate to compare it to a huge, diverse, integrated business like housing with any credibility.  Instead, as with the examples above of the aircraft business of the 20’s, the emerging auto industry of the teens, and the dot com start ups of the 80s and 90s, it should be compared to what happens in most emerging market businesses.  The vast majority of them FAIL.

I guess our AZ Republic opinion writers and editors feel pretty good about themselves and our state and local politicians picking the winners from the eventual (mostly) losers in this emerging market even with the documented, historically terrible odds. Never mind the additional market concern that the only reason solar is growing is due to HUGE government subsidies.

They must have forgot to include that.

If they were that good at picking winners, none of those AZ Republic journalism majors would still be working.  They would be independently wealthy by now from picking growth company stocks on the NASDAQ.

There is one thing of which I am certain, however.  If Michael, Jennifer, and Laura were graduating with their journalism degrees today, they’d probably all be camping out on Wall St. right now giving  out lots of advice on how other people’s money should be spent.

* College degree info was obtained from linkedin, McBride did not respond to a request to confirm.

Jennifer Dokes, Opinions Editor.  Marshall U., BA Journalism, ’83.

Laura McBride, Opinions Writer. BA, ASU, Broadcasting. ’82.

Michael Ryan VP/GM AZ Rep.  BA Communications ’77, St. Bonaventure, MBA RIT ’92.


3 Responses

  1. Howard, Thank you for raising greater awareness of what truly is happening. The misinformation that’s out there must be corrected. We support your efforts.

  2. Journalists of the 21st century – trained with a degree in 1st amendment abuse, the ways of misrepresentation, and mastery of propaganda. I think the education industry is badly in need of a circumcising. Such actions could reduce the stinging effect of this brain trust.

  3. It’s all common sense. If it needs a government subsidy to flourish, it probably will never “survive” on its own. If it is a great industry, it will have venture capitalists throwing billions at it.

    Example, oil industry in the Bakken Shale (generally North Dakotay and Eagle Ford Shale (South Texas), billions invested in labor, materials, equipment and infrastructure without Federal grants.

    Solar industry has grand plans, but it is dependent on how much money they get in free money from Federal and state governments.

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