Calling Out Green Fearmongering
How John Stossel Traded Lies for Ratings
By Nick Hodge
John Stossel has become the latest fearmonger at Fox News.
His journalistic debut there focused on "Free Golf Carts." But in the face
of Fox News' tradition of being "Fair and Balanced," the vehicles in
question actually turn out to be neither free nor golf carts.
Let's poke John's report to see what hackneyed tactics he's using to bash
the government and progressive energy ideas that would actually help most
of his ill-informed viewers.
Stossel Trades Lies for Ratings
Stossel is now the newest member of the Fox News team, having left ABC
after a long run with 20/20. Apparently, viewers of Fox more readily
accept steadfast resistance to progress passed off as news.
At any rate, his big inaugural piece at the network focused on government
(he refers to them as "venal cretins" — but that's a news term, right?)
tax credits for neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs).
Of course, it wasn't an in-depth, detailed report on the pros and cons of
offering people incentives to buy electric vehicles. Instead, his report
was more a personal tea party against "free golf carts."
Here's the first line of Stossel's take on the matter: "After money from
the "stimulus" bill was spent on destroying perfectly good cars and
building an Airport for Nobody, the WSJ reports that government has found
an even more ridiculous way to spend your money: free golf carts."
Do you see what he does there? Quotations around the word "stimulus" serve
to dismiss the effort that many economists now say helped pull us out of
the Great Recession.
And regarding his line about "destroying perfectly good cars:" those cars
weren't "perfectly good," were they?
They had been traded in for more efficient models, and their destruction
ensured the tax credit wasn't for naught. Oh yeah, and the automakers
hailed that idea as great for business.
Then there's the "more ridiculous way to spend your money" line.
Where were these headlines when the Minerals Management Service was doling
out billion-dollar land leases to oil companies that had furnished them
with cocaine and sex under the Bush administration?
That's a ridiculous way to spend money, not offering tax breaks for the
adoption of clean vehicles.
But this is the stuff that's broadcast as news every single day.
All Headline, No Substance
Of course, Stossel's piece was all for shock value. He was even quoted as
saying, "It's my first show on Fox Business, and I had to go big."
You don't "go big" when you're a journalist. You report the news.
But we are talking about the same news organization that ran a 12-page
pictorial last week featuring "Celebrities Who Go Bra-Free."
(By the way, my colleague Chris Nelder did a good job explaining why such
large herds of people chew this cud every single day in last Friday's
Energy & Capital.)
What I'm getting at here is that Stossel's diatribe was all about the
headline, so some Joe Shmoe could tell a few buddies about big gummit's
latest crazy idea. Pure propaganda in the form of a headline.
All Stossel need do is close the report with some subjective vitriol about
how stupid this idea is and the herd is hooked. He went with a generic
Foxism, saying the "government shouldn't be in the business of taking
money and giving it back. That just gives the venal cretins more power
over our lives."
He completely disregards any benefits the NEVs and the associated tax
breaks have to offer.
Let's see what happens when a journalist with more than a speck of
integrity reports on the same story...
The Un-Fox Version of NEVs
I remember reading an article in Wired back in September that showed the
not-so-scary side of NEVs. Listen to how terrible this sounds:
It's a brutally hot morning here at the Villages, one of the biggest
retirement communities on the planet. But the saunalike central Florida
weather doesn't slow down the 77,000 seniors who call this place home.
On the nine softball fields around the development, smack-talking
eightysomethings try to leg out a base hit. Graceful swimmers slice
through the water in glittering pools. Near the Bait Shop bar in one of
the immaculate town squares, line dancers shimmy in unison.
Villagers play hard. And they drive... well, they drive kinda slow.
Because the ride of choice at the Villages isn't a Lincoln or a Cadillac.
You guessed it... it's a neighborhood electric vehicle. And the seniors in
the community love them.
Just in this one community — there are many more in Florida and elsewhere
— there are 87 miles of trails that can only be traveled in an NEV. The
trails even take residents right to the doorstep of major chains like
Target, Staples, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart.
The entire community is centered around the NEVs. And they help not only
to gives hundreds of thousands of seniors a happy and active retirement,
but also to perpetuate the American dichotomy of consumerism and
It's no wonder the use of NEVs — and the amount of communities centered
around them — are on the rise.
Oh, and by the way, Wired reports that "The US government's recent
stimulus package offers NEV buyers a $2,500 tax credit (a third to half
the cost of the vehicle)."
Stossel's "Free Golf Carts" are based on dealership incentive schemes.
Wired takes a different approach to the conclusion than Stossel's "venal
The Villages embodies what environmentalists have been waiting decades for
- a glossy future powered by electric vehicles.
But the lesson of the Villages isn't just about the vehicles we're
driving-it's about where we're driving them. The future of transportation
should be focused on the quick jaunts that make up most of our day-to-day
The Villages is for people who've lived long enough to know that what they
want now is a warm breeze in a quiet, open ride-going fast enough to hit
both the golf course and the Walmart in the same afternoon but slow enough
to take in the scenery along the way.
As my octogenarian opponent deftly whacks the pickleball past my reach, I
look up to catch a glimpse of the future on the horizon. It's a
gray-haired guy with a backward cap, cruising in his cart past a brand-new
community center. A golden retriever stands on the passenger seat, tail
wagging, and an American flag is displayed proudly right where the gas
tank should be.
You can decide for yourself by reading Stossel's article here and the
Wired piece here.
But it shouldn't be hard to conclude that a tax break for buying a vehicle
with no emissions, one that is mostly used by seniors, and one that helps
create a sense of community while fostering American consumerism isn't a
The green future is here. You can, like Stossel, whine and stomp your
feet. Or you can embrace it, leverage it to save money on your utility and
transportation bills, encourage it to create a prosperous and
energy-secure America, and perhaps maybe even make a little profit for
Doing the latter is the opposite of venal. It's doing the right things for
the right reasons.