Today provided a great example. PolitiFact rated as "Promise Kept" President Obama's pledge to require 10 percent of U.S. electicity is comes from renewable energy sources by 2012:
"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will establish a 10 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 10 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2012."PolitiFacter Catharine Richert updated the item in 2009, noting that the House version of the cap and trade bill might end up fulfilling the president's promise.
Which brings us to 2011 and a new update by intern David G. Taylor.
Taylor informs us that the president has kept his promise. If that seems against all odds given the eventual fate of any and all cap and trade bills recently, hang on for Taylor's explanation:
We spoke with the Christina Kielich of the U.S. Department of Energy press office. She told us that the United States receives approximately 11 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. This breaks down to about 6 percent from hydroelectricity, 3 percent from wind, and approximately 1% each from solar, biomass, and geothermal. Thus, in 2011 - one year head of Obama"s promise, the United States has already reached more than the 10 percent renewable level.Obama kept his 10 percent promise because the U.S. exceeded 10 percent in fact.
In case it isn't clear what is going on here, Taylor is substituting a new promise for the old promise. The old promise was that the president would require 10 percent of U.S. energy to come from renewable sources. The new promise is that the U.S. will produce at least 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources. The latter promise is a tad like my personal promise that the sun will come up tomorrow. When the sun appears, my promise is kept. Did I do anything to help it along? Not at all.
As bad as it would be to credit the president with keeping a promise which required nothing of him, the real problem stems from the fact that Obama's promise was one of action. He would establish a requirement. Taylor's story provides no evidence of the establishment of any sort of requirement.
The promise was not kept, yet PolitiFact counts it otherwise.
This is at least the second time that PolitiFact editors have failed interns by not catching fairly obvious flaws in their stories. The other I have in mind was Lukas Pleva. Both interns are doubtless talented otherwise the plum internship opportunity would not fall within their respective grasps. Both deserve better from PolitiFact.
As both Taylor and Pleva doubtless have too much class to blast their gift-horse to its teeth, I'll be happy to do so on their behalf from my less-beholden position: PolitiFact, you blew it and you've harmed these interns with your lapse in oversight.