Help the Earth for Just $18,000

     What’s $18,000 – as long as it’s for a good cause?

     That’s the attitude the CBS “Evening News” took in the first installment of its series “Global Warming: Cool Solutions.” The March 6 story focused on California’s solar power initiative to “get people to think green by giving them some green,” as anchor Katie Couric explained it.

     Midway through the story, reporter John Blackstone admitted, “The panels add about $25,000 to the cost of a new home, but a state rebate and federal tax credits bring the price down almost a third.” As Blackstone talked, a graphic on the screen showed a state rebate deducting $5,000 from the cost and the federal credit dropping another $2,000 off the price – leaving $18,000 left to pay.

     The March 5 Washington Post estimated the initial cost wasn’t the $25,000 CBS claimed, but more like $30,000. “But, for now, low-carbon homes can come with very high price tags. Electricity-generating solar panels can cost as much as $30,000, and water-heating panels can top $9,000.”

     It was obvious from Blackstone’s story that the couple he profiled wasn’t typical. He introduced viewers to David and Sandra White, the first family to move into “this solar neighborhood.”

     “The obvious question is that by going green, do the Whites suffer?” he asked. “No,” was his conclusion since the family’s lifestyle wasn’t hindered. “They have two fridges, three electric ovens and four TVs,” Blackstone explained.

     While it was unclear what the Whites do for a living, what was clear is that their new home is huge and not exactly typical. One camera view showed the back of the house, where eight separate sets of windows and a sliding glass door were visible, giving the house the appearance of being at least 50 percent bigger than a standard center hall colonial home.

     Still, the added cost didn’t bother this reporter. “They also get something priceless. By living under one of California's million solar roofs they're helping the earth while helping themselves,” he concluded.

     Blackstone showed more of the California subdivision where contractors were constructing homes and “little power plants.” As he explained, “Solar panels are standard on every roof.”

     The story portrayed that as inexpensive. “By pushing energy conservation, California uses less electricity per person than any other state,” he argued. What Blackstone left out is that it’s also one of the most expensive.

     The February 17 Post explained that “the reason for California’s success is no secret: Electricity there is expensive, so people use less of it.” California, according to that story, is one of the most expensive per kilowatt-hour in the country.

    The CBS solar power story was just the latest installment of the media push on global warming, what Couric called “the hot topic lately.” It’s the hot topic because the media keep covering it, but that point wasn’t made.