Willfully misquoted: pv magazine’s words twisted

The advertisement, which accuses President Obama and members of his administration of funding development of renewables outside of the U.S., quotes pv magazine as having run an article showing Department of Energy (DOE) funding for a photovoltaic plant/fab in Mexico. The text is 30 seconds into the advertisement and runs: 1.2 BILLION… "NEW PLANT IN MEXICO" (DOE Loan Programs Office; PV Magazine 8/8/11).

To the best of our knowledge, pv magazine has published no story to this effect. The editors believe the AFP has willfully misquoted pv magazine, in order to distort reality to suit its claims as to government support of photovoltaics.

The articles bearing some resemblance to the one cited in the AFP advertisement are dealing with: a US$1.2 billion DOE loan guarantee for the Mojave Solar Project, in California, which was to use glass receiver tubes from a fab in New Mexico, published 14/9/2011; and a SunPower announcement that it was planning to build a fab in Mexicali, Mexico. As reported in the piece, SunPower had access to a loan facility from French oil giant, and majority owner, Total.

pv magazine has contacted AFP via email and telephone to determine which article it is referring to and to discover where the published headline was sourced. At the time of publication, however, it is yet to receive a reply.

Karl-Heinz Remmers, solar industry veteran and founder of pv magazine’s parent company, Solarpraxis AG, said the misquotation is typical of the misinformation spread by opponents to renewable energy.

Willful misquotation is a risk run by any organization or individual engaged in public debate, writes philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, from the City University of New York. His writings are frequently taken out of context by creationists and proponents of Creative Design in opposition to evolutionists. In his Rationally Speaking blog, Pigliucci takes an understandably philosophical approach.

"It is pretty much impossible to write for the public in an intellectually honest way and not be willfully misquoted by people who have no qualms at being intellectually dishonest if it suits their ideological agenda." Pigliucci continues, "That shouldn’t stop us from engaging the public, or from pointing out every time these bozos are trying to get free mileage by distorting what we write."

The Obama campaign hasn’t take the misleading advertising campaign lying down. The New York Times has reported that the Obama campaign has commenced an advertising campaign of its own countering the claims made in the AFP advertisements. The Obama campaign counter advertisement, writes the New York Times, represents an unusually early start to a campaign.

Stephanie Cutter, the Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama for America, features in a "viral video" in which the claim by AFP – attributed to pv magazine – is rebutted: "Our money is going to build a solar plant here, in America, with American workers." Cutter continues, in remarks that echo philosopher Pigliucci: "These guys will say anything they like to tear down the President. They will literally say anything […] so we’re going to call their BS when we see it."

pv magazine has quoted all sources in this article, faithfully and correctly.

Edited by Becky Stuart.