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By Robert Rapier on Jan 7, 2017 with 11 responses

Fact-Checking Snopes On Las Vegas And Renewable Energy

Tags: myths

When I hear a claim that doesn’t sound quite right to me, I usually check in at Snopes to get the facts. They usually do a good job of debunking fake news, and they provide lots of references to back them up.

However, I think they did a huge disservice to readers recently with their fact check on a viral story about Las Vegas.

The story going around was that Las Vegas is now completely powered by renewable energy. The story contains a kernel of truth, but then that kernel got distorted into something that went viral, but was clearly untrue.

Why does it matter? Because when people start to believe energy myths, they start to have unrealistic expectations. That leads to bad energy policies. After all, if the glittering lights of Las Vegas can run entirely on renewable energy, there is no reason we can’t run the entire country on renewable energy. While it’s fine to have that as a target, if we start to base energy policies on that expectation, we are likely to create energy shortages.

The kernel of truth was a story about the city government of Las Vegas. The story first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal was City of Las Vegas reaches clean energy goal. In that story, they explain that the city government in Las Vegas has been moving toward running totally on renewable energy. Here is the key piece of information: “Through a combination of direct generation and credits, the city is powering more than 140 facilities, along with streetlights, with renewable sources.”

So the city government is now running its ~140 facilities on renewable power. Then, whether through careless reporting, incompetence, or intentionally misleading readers with click bait, that story morphed from “City of Las Vegas” to “city of Las Vegas” to simply “Las Vegas is running on renewable energy.” To emphasize that point, many stories ran a picture of the Las Vegas Strip with the accompanying headline.

One of the worst offenders was Popular Mechanics, which had the following up for four days before modifying the title and issuing a “clarification:”

A Misleading Story

Not only are the headline and subtitle of this story completely false, but the Las Vegas Strip isn’t within the City of Las Vegas. Thus, nothing you see in that picture was actually covered by the announcement by the City of Las Vegas.

Nevertheless, that headline was repeated verbatim in the mainstream media, and the story went viral. One version of the story I saw had 1.2 million views. As one might expect, Snopes fact-checked it. And they got it wrong.

The claim they fact-checked (at this link) was “The city of Las Vegas is now powered completely by renewable energy.”

Although within the fact-check they clarified that it is only the “municipal buildings and facilities” of the “city of Las Vegas”, they rated the claim “Mostly True.” In fact, as read and passed around it is “Mostly False” or “Barely True.” Instead of pointing out that many stories actually got it completely wrong, they put the blame on readers who just glanced at headlines and “may have come away with the mistaken impression that the glittering array of brilliantly-lit hotel/casinos that populate the famous Las Vegas Strip are now all impressively powered entirely by renewable energy sources.”

I am sorry, that just isn’t acceptable. Readers came away with that impression because media outlets blatantly made that claim with accompanying pictures of the Las Vegas Strip. Had Snopes fact-checked “The City of Las Vegas…” they would have been on firmer ground, but readers would still need some clarification of what “City” means in this instance. But that wasn’t the claim that went viral. It was “city of Las Vegas” or simply “Las Vegas.”

That claim rates “MOSTLY FALSE”, and Snopes blew it on this one.

Link to Original Article: Fact-Checking Snopes On Las Vegas And Renewable Energy

Follow Robert Rapier on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or at Forbes.

  1. By BonzoDog1 on January 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I would think Las Vegas has always operated on nearly 100 percent renewable energy since the nearby Hoover Dam provides much — if not all — of the city’s power demand.

    • By Robert Rapier on January 7, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Actually the vast majority of the power for Las Vegas comes from natural gas.

  2. By voetsak on January 7, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Good work Robert. Only Vinod Khosla, John Doerr, and Alchemy Gore are thermodynamically more challenged than Snopes

  3. By fleeb on January 8, 2017 at 8:39 am

    I don’t find snopes to be that accurate. They are polarized Left with most of their postings. Just like most other news agencies they leave the reader with a inferior understanding. It’s like a game for them to post “facts” that prove to be correct, but the communication and false assumptions still imply to the reader a misconception. News agency’s are infamous with their learned ability to use body language or color the information that works to imply a false perspective. Listen to their choice of verbiage and the most political of the group will totally leave the listener or viewer with bad or false assessment of current events. They seem to have become unhinged per lacking the ability to pull Hillary across the finish line. NPR is really spinning nowadays. It’s laughable when comparing Obama coverage as compared to “accurate” reporting of Trump. You can flip the political party and the news reporting would sound comical. We’re so accustomed to this bias, the bias sounds normal, so flip the message to the Right to get another viewpoint of the reporting objectivity. Lately, I was listening to a political analysis of professor’s take on Trump’s future wherein the host stated “the majority want what Trump is offering. How do we work against that obstacle”. You know the will of the people is not important to them as they are elites.

    • By ragnarockdan on January 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      The only relationship this comment has to RR’s article is that both refer to Snopes. On the wider discussion of energy policy (the focus of this Robert’s website) it contributes nothing and seems only to exist for serving as a platform to diminish the value of Snopes as a source for identifying ‘fake news’ sites. For both of these reasons I would ask Robert Rapier to remove this comment from his site.

      • By fleeb on January 8, 2017 at 7:42 pm

        Really, that’s your take on the comment. The RR post was about disinformation. How they do it and mislead the public. What the truth really is and how these brokers of that claim of vetting the real truth will get it wrong. Snopes got it completely wrong. My comment was directed to the bias of many news agencies and information brokers. They have often times or mostly have an agenda. It’s easy to spot their biases and we need to safeguard our thinking to not automatically award them the last bastion (the final judge) of information. We are ground ups, and have a more intellectual ability and curiosity to not automatically believe them. From my experience snopes if often coloring information and has a bias. The self promoted truth detector web sit was commissioned/motivated within a political agenda. Their viewership is Left. No secret there. This recent news analysis invention has a tremendous pollution of citizen thinking skills. “Why does it matter? Because when people start to believe energy myths, they start to have unrealistic expectations”. That leads to bad energy policies.” This is but one example.

        • By TimC on January 9, 2017 at 2:59 pm

          “They seem to have become unhinged per lacking the ability…”

          “News agency’s are infamous with their learned ability to use body language…”

          “We are ground ups…”

          “…snopes if often coloring information…”

          Forrest? Is that you?

          • By Forrest on January 10, 2017 at 6:56 am

            Ya, I’m Forrest, sometimes when using “Name” Disqus will put in fleeb if I had been signed in prior.

            Although I would hope most would quickly pickup on the slant that snopes is working upon, Peter Hasson has a post

            The latest juice upon mostly left news agencies, “fake news”. That would be any news they have no control over. You see info must be first digested (filtered) by journalists so us commoners can get the correct version. Their fake news analysis works like the snopes thing. Put in a mostly false narrative, such as “Did Al Gore say he invented the internet? Whereupon their analysis based on their hand picked facts reads so authoritative and unbiased. Impressive to wholly dismiss the statement as false and just political smear trickery. They fail to disclose how much bragging, self promotion, and glory hound character this guy has and that the phrase is merely an idiom used to describe the mans character. Like when one describe the earth as round. Your lying and they can prove it. New agencies can call the piece “fake” news if you put the term within a posting describing the shortcomings of GW science. A poor example (but handy) “GW scientist would have you believe the earth isn’t round”.

  4. By conservativeprof on January 9, 2017 at 12:28 am

    The original story just focusing on municipal facilities is highly misleading. The assertion implies that wind and solar alone can power these facilities. This claim is absolutely bogus for obvious reasons about the variability of wind and solar along with times when these sources are not available. The original article puts hydro power into the renewable mix. Although hydro power is renewable, it is widely despised by the left. The left has a long campaign to dismantle hydro power. If the article were serious (instead of propaganda), it would indicate the relative energy shares from each source.

    The assertion also includes energy credits. This bogus technique provides the ability to use fossil fuels while claiming not to use fossil fuels. This technique is similar to absolution to forgive sins. One can commit mortal sins and then purchase absolution to remove any culpability for the sins.

    There is no renewable energy god. Wind and solar are intermittent sources that rely on natural gas backup facilities, typically operating very inefficiently. Wind and solar require expensive renewable energy plant, far flung networks of lossy transmission capacity, and equivalent levels of fossil fuel backup generation (usually operating very inefficiently). The illusion of clean power is an expensive power generation network with large amounts of over capacity, complex control systems to switch between renewable and backup generation, and wildly expensive network of transmission capacity.

    • By fleeb on January 9, 2017 at 6:20 am

      Ah, but when we hook that wire up to a battery charger magic happens. We power a portable motor that operates a non polluting 98% efficiency car. Don’t look behind the curtain at the all powerful Oz. Just believe. Free non polluting power. Quit you job, your money is not needed. That electric motor gets 150 mpg equivalent. So, now your telling me this is an illusion? We won’t get a free lunch and the cost of energy isn’t a conspiracy to keep me working?

  5. By peakchoicedotorg on January 9, 2017 at 1:51 am

    If one considers FOOD deliveries, aviation and the superfluousness of what Las Vegas markets, it is probably the LEAST sustain-a-bull place in the country. After oil rationing starts it’s likely to decline faster than most other places. A century from now it will be less interesting ruins than Detroit, since it’s hard to grow food there and even without climate change there’s not a lot of local water (other than the reservoir).

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