NBC's 'Today' Helps Sell Government Gimmick to Show Obama 'Gets It' On High Gas Prices

On Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer invited on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to tout federally mandated stickers that detail the fuel efficiency of new cars: "Another way to save money is to buy a fuel efficient car and today the federal government is unveiling new fuel economy labels that you soon will be seeing on all new cars."

Lauer asked LaHood, "$3.81, the average for a gallon of gas right now across the country. How much pressure on the administration to get that price down?" LaHood used the opportunity to cheer the new labels: "Gas prices are killing family budgets. The President gets it. This is part of the President's plan – these new labels – part of the President's plan to help people save money at the pump....The President gets it. This is part of our plan here."

Urging LaHood to make the administration's pitch, Lauer declared: "This new sticker even looks different. We're going to see these on 2013 model years. Jump right in. Tell me what's different about the label." LaHood replied: "It tells you immediately what kind of miles per gallon you're going to get, how much you will save over five years and the annual cost." Lauer helped promote the White House talking points: "You want consumers to make smarter choices and you want to help them do that."

The problem with telling people how much money they'll save on gas in years to come is that gas prices continually change. If the price per gallon suddenly skyrocketed, the numbers listed on the labels could be rendered meaningless.

Lauer and LaHood specifically pushed American-made hybrid vehicles, with a Ford Focus and Chevy Volt displayed on Today's plaza. Lauer proclaimed: "Now let's take a look at this car here that's electric and gasoline, this is the Chevy Volt. And look how this [fuel efficiency label] jumps up right here." LaHood responded: "Absolutely. People are really looking at their opportunities for electrified, for hybrid cars. The Volt is a hot-selling car because people can save a lot of gasoline. This tells them the equivalent of the electric – using an electric-powered car, how much they will save."

The Chevy web site shows the Volt "starting as low as $32,780." By comparison, a conventionally powered vehicle like the Chevy Cruze is listed at half the price, $16,525. Perhaps the Volt isn't quite the money-saver LaHood claimed.
                                            
Lauer did point out some trouble with hybrid vehicles: "You want people to buy these cars. Isn't the reality, though, when gas prices are high there's interest in cars like these and when those prices come down that interest wanes?" LaHood countered: "Well look it, we want gas prices to come down but while they're as high as they are and with summer season coming on, we want people to have this opportunity."    

At one point, Lauer wondered: "How did the auto industry feel about coming along on these things?" LaHood argued: "You know, they're coming along, Matt. They understand that people want to know how much they're going to be able to save and they want to be able to advertise that. These new stickers really tell people quickly how much they're going to save. Either electricity or on gasoline."

As the segment concluded, LaHood made sure to tell viewers one more time who to thank for the new labels: "The President understands that high gasoline prices are killing people's budgets. And this is part of the President's plan to really give people the options."


Here is a full transcript of the May 25 segment:

8:19AM ET

MATT LAUER: Another way to save money is to buy a fuel efficient car and today the federal government is unveiling new fuel economy labels that you soon will be seeing on all new cars. Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation. Mr. Secretary, it's great to have you here. Good morning.

RAY LAHOOD: Good morning, Matt. Thank you.

LAUER: Talk about this label in a second. $3.81, the average for a gallon of gas right now across the country. How much pressure on the administration to get that price down?

RAY LAHOOD: Gas prices are killing family budgets. The President gets it. This is part of the President's plan – these new labels – part of the President's plan to help people save money at the pump, Matt. That's what people want to do. These gas prices are killing people. The President gets it. This is part of our plan here.

LAUER: This new sticker even looks different. We're going to see these on 2013 model years. Jump right in. Tell me what's different about the label.

LAHOOD: Well, it's very easy to understand. It tells you immediately what kind of miles per gallon you're going to get, how much you will save over five years and the annual cost. Very quickly you can read. If you have a smart phone, you click on this little thing here, this, and you can also see how much you can save over a long period of time.

LAUER: You want consumers to make smarter choices and you want to help them do that.

LAHOOD: Absolutely.

LAUER: This is the Ford Focus, right?

LAHOOD: That's the Ford Focus.

LAUER: Now let's take a look at this car here that's electric and gasoline, this is the Chevy Volt. And look how this jumps up right here.

LAHOOD: Absolutely. People are really looking at their opportunities for electrified, for hybrid cars. The Volt is a hot-selling car because people can save a lot of gasoline. This tells them the equivalent of the electric – using an electric-powered car, how much they will save.

LAUER: How did the auto industry feel about coming along on these things?

LAHOOD: You know, they're coming along, Matt. They understand that people want to know how much they're going to be able to save and they want to be able to advertise that. These new stickers really tell people quickly how much they're going to save. Either electricity or on gasoline.

LAUER: When you look at these numbers, these are great. You want people to buy these cars. Isn't the reality, though, when gas prices are high there's interest in cars like these and when those prices come down that interest wanes?        

LAHOOD: Well look it, we want gas prices to come down but while they're as high as they are and with summer season coming on, we want people to have this opportunity. The President understands that high gasoline prices are killing people's budgets. And this is part of the President's plan to really give people the options.

LAUER: And again, you're going to start to see these stickers on 2013 model year cars, which is really not that far. It's just down the-

LAHOOD: Exactly.

LAUER: It's just down the bend.

LAHOOD: Thank you, Matt.

LAUER: Mr. Secretary. It's great to have you here. Thank you very much.

LAHOOD: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC