NY Times Links Higher Gas Prices to Bush and Ethanol

On May 15, NewsBusters noted that the press were missing the seemingly obvious connection between higher gasoline prices and the federally mandated use of ethanol.

In doing so, they were also mysteriously passing on a fine opportunity to bash the Bush administration, something that obviously defied logic and precedent.

Well, it appears nine days later the folks at the New York Times recognized this oversight, and published a front-page business section article entitled “Oil Industry Says Biofuel Push May Hurt at Pump” (emphasis added throughout):

Gas prices are spiking again — to an average of $3.22 a gallon, and close to $4 a gallon in many areas.

[…]

[Oil executives] point to a surprising culprit: uncertainty created by the government’s push to increase the supply of biofuels like ethanol in coming years.

And who do you think the Times blamed for this push:

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for a sharp increase in the use of biofuels, along with some improvement in automobile fuel efficiency to reduce America’s use of gasoline by 20 percent within 10 years.

What a surprise. It’s all the President and his buddies in the oil industry’s fault:

That has forced many oil companies to reconsider or scale back their plans for constructing new refinery capacity.

In hearings before Congress last year, oil executives outlined plans to increase fuel production by expanding existing refineries. Those plans would add capacity of 1.6 million to 1.8 million barrels a day over the next five years, for an increase of 10 percent, according to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

But those plans have since been scaled back to more than one million barrels a day, according to the Energy Information Administration, an arm of the federal government.

If the national policy of the country is to push for dramatic increases in the biofuels industry, this is a disincentive for those making investment decisions on expanding capacity in oil products and refining,” said John D. Hofmeister, the president of the Shell Oil Company. “Industrywide, this will have an impact.”

And the bashing continued:

Refineries are a choke point in the nation’s supply of fuel. Because they have not invested enough in refineries to increase gasoline supplies, oil companies have been unable to meet the country’s growing demand in recent years. That has forced them to rely on imports, which are more expensive than fuel refined domestically.

The fragility of the refining system became apparent after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. At the time, President Bush offered to reopen some military bases as sites for constructing refineries and Congress passed legislation to encourage refiners.

But oil companies rejected the idea of constructing new refineries in the United States, saying it would be impractical and too expensive.

Unbelievable. Absolutely no mention that a new refinery hasn’t been constructed in this country since Marathon Oil’s Garyville, Louisiana, plant went online in 1976. Or that the primary reason for this has been the inability of oil companies to get licenses to build such facilities through an environmentally-friendly Congress, which, through most of this period, was controlled by Democrats.

As a result, the media have created an incredible lose-lose for the oil companies, as in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, they were bad guys because they hurt the environment. Now, they're bad guys because they didn't build enough refineries even though Congress wouldn't allow it.

Just as unconscionable, the Times failed to mention that Congress during this same period consistently prevented oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, whilst restricting offshore activities in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

No, we wouldn't want to address any of that. Instead, this problem today, ladies and gentlemen, has all just come upon us since George W. Bush became president.

Isn’t it wonderful to be able to revise history this way?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.