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Fortune Magazine Bias

November 18, 2014

Nestled in the middle of an article supporting wind energy and energy efficiency is a chart showing energy intensity.

The Fortune magazine article pits clean energy vs “dirty coal” in Ohio.

Note the adjective “dirty”.

The article is an excellent example on how biased reporting can be misleading.

Here are examples of bias from this article.

  • Effect of the shale gas bonanza on manufacturing is in dispute
  • Use of renewables would grow if carbon pricing were put into effect
  • Greater energy efficiency combined with renewable power is a powerful formula
  • The benefits of alternative energy are not evenly spread across manufacturing

Here’s why these statements from Fortune magazine are biased:

  • The low-cost of natural gas has benefitted everyone, including manufacturing companies. It’s not “somewhat” in dispute, except for those who wish to spin the issue.
  • Supporting carbon pricing is a clear indicator the author supports the idea that CO2 is causing global warming?
  • Categorizing “renewables and alternative energy” as “benefits” is contradictory to the facts, since renewables and alternative energy are more costly and unreliable?

A casual reader could easily assume that industry is on the bandwagon supporting renewables, and that industry has recently adopted energy efficiency measures to cut its use of energy.

Both would be bad assumptions. Both premisses are misleading.

Generalizing from Honda’s building two symbolic wind turbines on its property is hardly reason to infer that all U.S. industry is on the bandwagon for cutting CO2 emissions.

After all, Honda is a Japanese company bound by its country’s obligations for reducing CO2 emissions. And Honda’s retired energy and operations chief still heads the energy committee of the Ohio Manufacturers Association, which explains why the manufacturers association is opposing the Ohio Bill that would reduce renewable mandates.

Energy Usage Chart from Fortune Magazine

Energy Usage Chart from Fortune Magazine

Returning to the chart in the article, where the caption says:

“A look back at 30 years of energy use by U.S. manufacturers shows a peak in the mid-1990s. Gains in efficiency are helping to keep power use down.”


  • The big dip in energy usage was actually caused by two recessions, not by efforts to improve energy efficiency. Energy usage is climbing back as the economy slowly improves.
  • Energy intensity measures the entire economy, not just manufacturing. The graph covers a period where the U.S. Economy was shifting to a service economy that uses less energy.

These charts have little, if any, relationship with alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar. Or that manufacturers have reduced their use of energy by suddenly promoting energy efficiency programs.

Energy intensity includes all forms of energy, oil and gasoline, natural gas, electricity (an energy carrier), chemicals (primarily derived from oil and natural gas) and nuclear power. Not just wind and solar.

Lower gasoline usage, for example, is the result of fewer miles driven and improving mpg, and this is part of the reason for lower energy intensity.

To include these graphs in an article describing how manufacturers are suddenly conserving energy and adopting renewables is misleading at best.

Manufacturers have always been seeking ways to cut energy usage and have consistently adopted energy improvements when they were cost effective.

It’s not a new phenomena brought about by fear of global warming or a need to cut CO2 emissions.

For example, adding capacitors to power lines to eliminate wattless energy has been done for decades. It’s not something new.

Industry has used fluorescent lighting wherever possible. Industry introduced energy efficient distribution transformers with grain oriented steel back in the ‘40s. The railroad industry switched from DC to AC-locomotives in the ‘90s. Managers up and down the line have been measured on their use of electricity, natural gas, etc., monthly and yearly, constantly comparing current with prior usage.

Local power plants, now referred to as distributed energy, have always been used when it was more economic to do so, such as when steam is required for various processes. Or, with the advent of server farms, a need for uninterruptible power.

Saving energy has always been important, and isn’t something that’s new because of efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

Once again, it’s extremely important to carefully read all articles contained in the media, including articles in business magazines that are supposedly business friendly.

Bias permeates virtually all the media, and readers who are not intimately familiar with energy issues can be mislead.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 18, 2014 9:45 am


    Bias in the media these days is running rampant. An example from my personal experience…

    My local hometown newspaper (Batavia Daily News in western New York) stopped printing any letters in their print edition which expressed any opposition to Governor Cuomo’s favored industrial wind a couple years ago – even though the wind industry has targeted a number of towns within their readership area, and there’s an ongoing lawsuit against Invenergy in Orangeville, also in their readership area. Worst of all — they still print letters that kiss up to the wind industry in the print edition.

    They just printed a letter from the Orangeville Supervisor bloviating about the great job Invenergy did repairing the roads damaged during construction of the project, all done she claimed, “without taxpayer money.” Puhh-leease!

    The only reason Invenergy even built the Orangeville project was because the Wind PTC was added as pork to the Fiscal Cliff deal 12/31/12 in the wee hours of the morning (as covered here: “New York Wind Wars”: )

    I sent a correction to the paper stating that, contrary to Ms. May’s uninformed assertions, the PTC, which enabled the building of Invenergy’s project, IS a TAX on all U.S. citizens. I received a reply from the editor saying that they will put my response on their website, but will NOT print it in their print edition (as they did hers) for the many older citizens in the area to read (who do vote!), who don’t have computers.

    The media IS controlling the message in an effort to keep the electorate “stupid,” as much of the media is catering to the big corporations who have the money to buy ads from them. As always – “It’s all about the money.”

    Industrial Wind Needs Blowback (Siemens ad campaign targeting U.S. taxpayers)

    • November 18, 2014 10:05 am

      Thanks for the additional example, and how it’s preventing seniors from learning the facts.
      Nearly every day I see an article that is either inaccurate or biased in my local paper, and in other papers and magazines.
      The associated press (AP) and McClatchy papers are perhaps the worst in this respect.
      I wrote about the Fortune article because Fortune is supposedly a business friendly magazine with stature.

  2. November 19, 2014 3:39 pm

    Excellent piece, Donn.

    Especially in this area, it’s too easy to distort the truth. A lie of omission is still a lie. You’ve adroitly super-illuminated that fact.

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