Big bad oil company ExxonMobil is "on the defensive in the face of consumer ire and congressional indignation" as it raked in a "huge" first quarter profit, Washington Post's Steven Mufson informed readers of his front page May 2 article.
Mufson later noted that "[d]espite Exxon's colossal profit, the company's stock fell yesterday." Mufson blamed investors "shift[ing] gears" to turn to other stocks and pull out of commodities. Yet Mufson made no attempt to explore how "new congressional vows to come up with legislation" to tax oil company profits might play into investors being skittish about the company, a favored bogeyman of left-wing populist politicians in election years marked by high gasoline prices.
By contrast, the May 2 Financial Times took a less political, business-oriented look at ExxonMobil with a front-pager by Sheila McNulty and Carola Hoyos entitled, "Exxon oil production struggles for growth":
Two segments that aired on two days straight on CNN underscored the network’s alignment with those who stand against a gasoline tax holiday during the summer driving season. First, Carol Costello’s segment on Wednesday’s "Newsroom" program used last year’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis to advance the idea that "things like road construction and bridge repair" would suffer as a result of the lost revenues. The following day, on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," host Wolf Blitzer pressed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, on McCain’s proposal, asking, "So when you say that he would take the money from reserves, in other words, we would go further into debt to pay for this tax break?" During the interview, a chyron or graphic on the screen claimed, "Saving on Gas Could Cost You: Whether to Suspend Fed Gas Taxes."
On the April 30 edition of "BBC World," Justin Webb reported on rising fuel costs and how the increase in prices affect the American public. According to Mr. Webb, many Americans drive cars nearly the size of big rigs, and will need to spend their tax rebate on fuel, thereby doing little for the economy at large. After all, if a big rig tank takes over a thousand dollars to fill, many American cars must face similar costs. [Audio available here] Transcript below:
“Many Americans drive private cars not much smaller than this truck, and the risk is that they use their tax rebate simply to buy fuel, boosting the profits of the oil companies but doing little or nothing for the wider American economy.
Hillary Clinton's tax policy on gas and oil is "pointless" while John McCain's is "evil," according to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. But in explaining the difference, Krugman betrays either his ignorance of the flawed history of the so-called "windfall profits tax" on petroleum or his tacit approval of the tax despite its folly as public policy.
Anyway, John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no. [...] The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.
Far from being pointless, a windfall profits tax produces negative effects on consumers and investors, as well as the health of the energy industry, say many economists, including former Bill Clinton economic advisor Robert J. Shapiro who focused his fire on the policy's damage to retirees' investments (see PDF of study here).
Washington Post reporters Alec MacGillis and Steven Mufson found another liberal economist with nothing positive to say for a windfall profits tax in their May 1 front-page article (emphasis mine):
Fresh off its controversial Iwo Jima cover with Marines raising a tree, Time magazine's May 5 issue celebrates with an Earth Day roundup. The cause for celebration? That in 2008, "every day is Earth Day," exulted Nancy Gibbs.
Gibbs celebrated, among other things, the banning of DDT, which led to millions of preventable deaths from malaria. "Back in 1970, there was ... poison in our pesticides," she said, but after the Environmental Protection Agency was created, "DDT was banned."
Perhaps she missed the fact that DDT was reinstated for use in malaria-ridden countries by order of the World Health Organization in 2006.
Another part of this year's Earth Day roundup: "Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales told the U.N. that 'if we want to save our planet Earth, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system.'" Meanwhile, Gibbs wrote, "capitalists polished their image to a green sheen."
My bottom line analysis (11:25): The two R's of bias from this Rose Garden presser: Martha Raddatz on Syria and numerous reporters on the dreaded R-word, recession. Of course a recession is two consecutive quarters of NEGATIVE economic growth, and we've yet to see one quarter of negative growth, much less two. But all the same, NY Times's Stolberg made it sound like Q1 numbers on GDP tomorrow will show a recession.
The questions below will be posted in reverse chronological order:
High food prices may be affecting middle-income families, but an anecdotal report on CBS's "The Early Show" April 28 made the situation seem as if one family's use of a food bank was "the new face of hunger."
CBS reporter Priya David highlighted Pablo and Ada Melecio, a couple who recently lost their jobs and have elected to use a food bank to make ends meet. Ada Melecio said their "mortgage payments started falling behind and all the interest on that plus all the credit cards" were making their situation even worse.
Washington Post staffer Eli Saslow introduced readers of his April 28 front-page article to a handful of newly registered North Carolina Democrats. But the hype about gas prices from the plight of one of the Democrats from Raleigh struck me to be a probable case of fuzzy math.
Meet 18-year-old Kyla White, a senior at Raleigh's Enloe High School and a part-time receptionist at a local Sports Clips hair salon who drives a 1997 Honda (emphasis mine):
She wanted to vote for a multiracial America, one in which peers wouldn't call her "too white" for being one of a handful of black students in the Enloe honors program. She wanted to vote for no more Code Reds. She wanted to vote for lower gas prices.
In the past couple of weeks, NewsBusters has reported the media's sudden negative opinion of ethanol as a result of rising food prices and rationing of rice by certain retailors.
You can now add NBC to the list, and, in particular, the host of CNBC's "Mad Money," Jim Cramer, who on Friday's "Today" show actually blamed ethanol for the current crisis while stating emphatically, "You drop the mandate, prices plummet."
With this in mind, strap your seatbelt tightly across your waist, and prepare yourself for an alternate ungreen reality (video embedded upper right, use scroll bars to properly center):
Regardless, the good news is that press outlets continue to recognize this unholy connection, and that someone, even at the conservative New York Sun, would deign to report it (emphasis added throughout):
As food prices soar, and rationing of such things as rice begin, America's media are finally starting to wake up to the inconvenient truth that ethanol is not the energy panacea folks like Nobel Laureate Al Gore proclaim.
Leading the charge is conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck, who invited the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Iain Murray on his program Tuesday to discuss the looming crisis.
Indeed, the only thing to justify the "no end" language was citing gasoline analyst Trilby Lundberg as saying "she does not expect the prices to go down anytime soon," hardly a dire "no end in sight" forecast that conjures up notions of never-ending price increases rather than an eventual price plateau.
“Tonight, $3.51 – that’s the average price nationwide of a single gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. That means a 15-gallon tank now costs more than $50 to fill. As a little reference point, the week George W. Bush was sworn in as president, the price of a gallon of gas was $1.47.”
Update at end of post: did ABC get these numbers from the DNC?
Tuesday's "Good Morning America" went into hyperbole meltdown over high gas prices. According to various anchors and reporters, Americans are foregoing church, prescription drugs and breakfast in order to cope. In a tease at the show's open, Co-host Diane Sawyer fretted, "As gas prices balloon, 12 cents in just one week, some Americans tell you how they skip breakfast and drugs just to drive." News anchor Chris Cuomo solemnly informed viewers of the "tough choice" many Americans face: "Food or fuel?"
Cuomo then introduced reporter Bianna Golodryga to explain "the sacrifices people are now making." Included in those sacrifices was one Juan Martinez who told Golodryga "Our church is approximately 35, 40 miles away. We've really cut down on the amount of times that we've come into service since the price has gone up." Now, as Golodryga admitted, this clip was actually from November of 2007, during a previous GMA segment about gas prices causing people to skip church and possibly cancel Christmas. So, ABC has resorted to recycling gas horror stories? Could that mean, perhaps, there's not enough of them to go around?
For months, NewsBusters has been warning readers of the likelihood that media will adopt the 1992 Clinton playbook of regularly depicting the economy as being far worse than it really is.
On Sunday, the Democratic National Committee released a new television advertisement attacking GOP presidential candidate John McCain with economic statistics that don't measure up to even the slightest scrutiny.
With this in mind, will press outlets this campaign season investigate the economic claims being made by the candidates and their supporters, or allow inaccuracies present in this ad (embedded video to the right), and likely others in the months to come, to go completely unchallenged?
Consider the following written statement in this ad supposedly answering the question "Are Americans better off than they were 8 years ago?":
Barack Obama has been airing a shamelessly anti-business TV ad in Pennsylvania for a while now. In the ad Obama himself, in his own voice, makes the claim that he doesn't "take money from oil companies." But there is a two-fold deception in this claim that Obama doesn't tell his sycophantic fans. So where is the media to pounce on these cynical deceptions? They’re nowhere to be seen.
Recently I saw the ad where Obama claimed he didn't take contributions from oil companies and the claim struck a chord in my memory. I was under the impression that oil companies could not legally donate to a campaign at all. So, I did some checking and it seems that FactCheck.org did an entire page on Obama's deceptive Pennsylvania ad.
Friday's Washington Post displayed that annoying trend of hyping already high gas prices with a photograph of astronomical gas prices. As reporter Steven Mufson reported that AAA marked that regular gasoline price at $3.36 a gallon, a photograph right next to it online (and on an inside page in the paper) displayed a gas station sign marking the regular price as $4.19. Mufson explained the prices this way:
On the eve of the summer driving season, crude prices defy gravity, hovering around $110 a barrel, keeping gasoline prices at record levels and sapping money from cash-strapped consumers. Yesterday, the AAA auto club said prices at the pump set records of $3.357 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline and $4.045 for diesel, even though U.S. gasoline consumption fell 0.6 percent in the first quarter.
That could make oil prices a politically volatile issue this year among voters who think prices are excessive and are looking for someone to blame.
In other words, the oil companies could be a big target this year of Democrats. Mufson began the piece:
CNN's senior business correspondent Ali Velshi let viewers in on an underreported fact about rising commodities prices: the government mandate for ethanol production is making corn and other agricultural products more expensive-making inflation a top priority for Americans.
"Several years ago, we made some decisions about how corn is going to be used to make ethanol, which is added to our gasoline," said Velshi on "American Morning" April 4. "A number of people think that that was meant to reduce our dependency on crude oil. What is does is it takes what is fundamentally a food source and makes it into a gasoline source. That's caused corn to go up."
The roundtable segment of Tuesday's The Situation Room offered CNN viewers opposite takes on the Bush administration's culpability in the rise of oil prices with Jack Cafferty and David Gergen on opposite ends. Cafferty, who has a history of blaming high oil prices on President Bush, argued that the administration's "idea of an energy policy is to put Dick Cheney in a closed, locked room out of sight of the public with some guys from Enron and some oil company guys, hammer out some kind of a deal, and then sit back and watch oil prices go from $28 when Bush was inaugurated to $111 now."
But Gergen later jumped into the discussion to explain the true origin of oil prices: "I think it's wrong to argue or suggest that somehow the oil companies have been manipulating these prices upward. These prices have not been, you know, rising sky high because of the Bush administration. They've been rising sky high because world demand is up so significantly."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday April 1 The Situation Room on CNN:
On ABC's April 1 "Good Morning America," which headlined one of its segments "April Fuel's Day," Chris Cuomo questioned why oil companies aren't taxed more while they're posting higher profits.
"Congress is calling all the oil companies on the carpet today," Cuomo said. "Lawmakers want to know why big oil needs billions in tax breaks while posting record profits of $123 billion. Consumers want answers too. Gas now runs $3.29 a gallon, up three cents from last week and 58 percent higher than last year. Oil executives argue they need tax breaks to expand production."
A fairly common media meme during the past year or so has been that the continually declining value of the dollar is driving up oil and gas prices (image courtesy Slate).
In the past three months alone, there have been over 100 stories involving this very subject, including this March 10 piece from U.S. News & World Report entitled "Why Gas Prices Rise as the Dollar Falls (emphasis added):
Here's one of those complex economic truisms the financial press assumes everybody understands: A big reason oil and gas prices are hitting record highs is that the dollar is hitting record lows.
The beauty of this "truism" is that it allows media outlets to blame oil and gas price rises on the Bush administration, as everybody knows that the lower dollar is all their fault (wink, wink...nudge, nudge).
Of course, an examination of oil and Dollar Index charts does show an inverse correlation, meaning that as oil prices rise, the dollar drops and vice versa (charts provided by TradingCharts.com):
One of the global warming community's favorite alternative energy resources is solar energy. Since it emits no greenhouse gas, it gives alarmists a warm and fuzzy feeling. However, that feeling has affected NBC's global warming reporter Anne Thompson ability to apply basic economic principles to her stories.
According to Thompson, there are two drawbacks to solar power - 1) You're at the mercy of Mother Nature for sunlight; and 2) It's drastically more expensive than fossil-fuel electricity.
"And there is the matter of price," Thompson said. "The Electric Research Power Institute says this kind of solar power is two to four times more expensive than electricity from natural gas or coal."
On Wednesday's The Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty suggested that blame for high oil prices rests not only with Bush administration policies, but also with its "relationship with the oil companies." During a discussion of John McCain and President Bush's recent meeting, Cafferty, who once pushed the liberal conspiracy theory that Big Oil deliberately lowered gas prices before the 2006 elections to help Republicans get elected, once again demonstrated his lack of understanding of the world oil market as he suggested that a "relationship" with oil companies could impact world oil prices: "Oil was $28 a barrel when George Bush was sworn in. It's $104 right now and could go to $120 soon. Now, why do you suppose that is? It wouldn't have to do with the policies of the Bush administration or the relationship they have with the oil companies, would it? Come on." (Transcript follows)
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez hyped rising gas prices as she teased an upcoming segment and declared: "Still ahead for us, more pain at the pump. You'll be paying $4 a gallon or even more." Though $4 a gallon may happen, asserting that it will be that high, or higher, in the near future certainly paints an overly dire picture. While introducing the segment, Rodriguez went on to highlight one gas station in California with prices far above the average of $3.17 a gallon across the country: "It may be hard to believe, but seeing is believing. Take a look at that, regular unleaded at $5.19 a gallon at one California station."
Rodriguez talked to analyst Tom Kloza of the Oil Information Price Service and began by asking about the rise in gas prices, and admitting some of her earlier exaggeration: "Luckily nationwide we're not seeing gas at $5.19, but we hit a record high yesterday, $3.17 a gallon, which is 69 cents higher than a year ago. What's going on here?"
On CNN Sunday, correspondent Al Velshi reported in by phone from Texas with his story of "lifelong Republicans" who are planning to vote Democratic this time because of health care. Velshi: "They are retired, they've been lifelong Republicans who are actually looking to change over. They're probably going to vote Democrat this time around." (Transcript follows)
"Blame it on the price of wheat," said ABC correspondent Sharon Alfonsi. "Demand for alternative energy has farmers planting less wheat and more corn - the key ingredient of ethanol. Add the growing appetite for wheat from developing countries and the supply is strained.
"And John Kilduff, who I know you speak with often, as well, Brian, he says we could see prices at the pump as high as $4 a gallon," Burnett said. "And that could be by the middle of February. So it could be anytime in the next six weeks. So that's going to be an increase, and we've seen it across the board, Brian. Commodity prices are going up, and that is causing worry for stocks."
The mainstream media are hard at work ginning up economic fears and class envy storylines. One need only look at CBSNews.com and two articles teased on the front page to get how the media are making the economy a melodrama scripted in favor of liberal Democratic talking points:
Granted, that is far more subtle than other economic coverage we've noted at NewsBusters, but the media have a clear interest in furthering news items that fit into liberal Democratic talking points about the economy and the ever-so-evil oil companies.