There goes another great newspaper tradition — dueling editorial pages

You’ve got to appreciate the fine, old tradition of dueling newspaper editorial pages.

Tit for tat. Thrust and parry. Scratching, gouging, rolling in the mud and the blood and the beer.

Too bad that tradition has died and what passes for dueling newspaper editorials in this town includes one unarmed, stumbling, somewhat demented combatant that isn’t even a newspaper any more.

A week ago the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a little toss-off of an editorial pointing out that the Ivanpah solar thermal power plant off I-15 just south of Primm is not quite as “clean” as originally advertised.

It turns out the green energy produced at the Ivanpah solar power facility — “funded by $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees and $600 million in tax credit” — isn’t so green after all.

The editorial notes that the three towers that are the focal point of thousands of mirrors must burn natural gas to augment the power of the sun when a cloud passes by and to kick start the turbines in the mornings. “Last year, the plant burned enough to emit 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Which officially makes a facility … a polluter,” the editorial states. “A dirty secret about ‘clean’ energy is that it requires fossil fuel backup that’s substantially cheaper to produce — and doesn’t require taxpayer handouts to be built. So why make taxpayers subsidize a technology that can’t meet demand for power on its own and doesn’t have the environmental benefits promised — to say nothing of the thousands of birds the Ivanpah plant incinerates every year?”

A week later the “competing” Las Vegas Sun counters with an editorial pooh-poohing the “conservative” newspaper without naming the R-J. But the editorial appears only online and not in the print section that appears inside the morning paper under an ill-advised and long-past-its use-by-date joint operating agreement. What is the point of a print version of a paper that doesn’t print anything?

The lede on the Sun calumny is: “Among the roles of newspapers is to publish editorials that generate healthy, constructive community conversations and to influence public opinion on certain issues of the day. Sound conclusions should be based on facts and logic.”

The editorial then illustrates its point by blithely declaring: “California energy officials say the operators of Ivanpah stay within their licensing agreement to use 5 percent or less natural gas and 95 percent or more solar energy to produce electricity. So it’s still a net-clean-energy operation — by far.”

The Sun editorialist proffered that the R-J “is so totally devoid of logic and intellectual honesty, it is laughable.”

Not so fast fight fans. You see the R-J attributes the facts in its editorial to an article in the Riverside newspaper. Apparently the Sun editorialist overlooked the fact that a longer version of the same story appeared a couple of days later in the Orange County newspaper.

That story reports that in 2010 the California Energy Commission indeed required, as a condition of licensing, heat from burning natural gas at the plant be no more than 5 percent of the heat captured from the sun.

“But in March 2014, after three months of commercial operation, plant operators found they needed to use more natural gas, and they asked the commission for a change in the rules. In August 2014, the commission voted to scrap the 5 percent rule and increased the plant’s annual gas volume limit by 38 percent,” the Orange County paper reports. Additionally, in the past year the plant generated only 59 percent — with sun and gas — of its listed capacity of 940,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.

In fact, the Ivanpah plant produces so much carbon it comes under California’s cap-and-trade program, because its annual carbon dioxide output exceeds 25,000 metric tons. Under the program a plant must cut carbon emissions or buy credits from those who do.

The Sun editorial concludes with this self-eviscerating obloquy: “For a newspaper to stubbornly and blindly adhere to its ideology and clutch to a denial of reality is deeply troubling and doing a disservice to its readers.”

Amen, amen. Sound conclusions should be based on facts and logic. Now where have I heard that before?

Ivanpah thermal solar plant south of Primm. (OCR photo)

Since the R-J has no one to trade jabs with, apparently they’ve taken to doing that internally with dueling columnists. A week ago Glenn Cook took the side of Attorney General Adam Laxalt in his tiff with Gov. Brian Sandoval over whether to sue the Interior Department over land use restrictions to protect greater sage grouse, while Steve Sebelius sided with Sandoval.

This week Cook explains why it is no big deal that early applicants for education savings accounts are more affluent, while Sebelius sees some major failure in the same stats.

Pick your fights where you can find them.

3 comments on “There goes another great newspaper tradition — dueling editorial pages

  1. Steve says:

    Funny how they lament the lack of facts, figures and sources…then provide none of them.

    The RJ laid out their sources right in their editorial.

    Yep, slander appears to be an accurate word for what the Sun wrote about the RJ’s editorial. And they din’t try to hide the target of their ire either referring to the RJ as “Nevada’s most conservative newspaper”. The Sun editorial doesn’t even let their readers know which paper in California they referred to….


    But I say being called “Nevada’s most conservative newspaper” by the likes of what remains of the Las Vegas Sun should be considered a badge of honor.
    And an attempt to grab readers by attacking a fact based editorial in the better paper.

  2. […] a four-day-old editorial dismissing all the Republican tax reform plans out of hand. (The paper has yet to print its online editorial questioning the state’s “most conservative newspaper” […]

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