CBS Hypes Gouging, NBC Focuses on Fears of Greens & ABC Rejects Liberal Premises
CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell asked White House reporter Jim Axelrod about the idea of "slapping a windfall tax on big oil companies for these record profits that they're making?" Mitchell then turned to Spitzer: "As a consumer, it seems like it's the wild West. How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?" NBC's Williams set up a story on President Bush's proposals by citing how “advocates for a greener America” are “seeing red over what they see as a quickly degrading environment." Williams soon asked David Gergen "what are the chances” that the high prices will lead the U.S. to now move from a “carbon based society to one that's more green?" Gergen replied: "Well, one hopes that's the case...” (Transcripts follow.)
World News Tonight ran a “Reality Check” in which Betsy Stark noted that while “the President's pledge to crack down on price gouging may help quiet critics who believe the market is being manipulated,” the “reality is the industry is often accused and almost never found guilty."
CBS's Jim Axelrod dismissed the impact of environmental rules that regulate the formulation of gasoline: "The President also wants certain environmental regulations to be suspended so that more gas can be used by more states interchangeably. Again, the idea is to pump up the supply. A few more drops headed to the barrel maybe, but really nothing's going to bring prices down anytime soon." In contrast, Stark asserted: "What could impact prices almost immediately is a suspension of environmental regulations. The reality here is that waiving the elaborate rules on summertime blends will likely push supplies up and prices down."
Some highlights from Tuesday, April 25 gas price stories run on the broadcast network evening newscasts, gathered with the help of the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
CBS Evening News. Jim Axelrod concluded from the White House:
"The President also wants certain environmental regulations to be suspended so that more gas can be used by more states interchangeably. Again, the idea is to pump up the supply. A few more drops headed to the barrel maybe, but really nothing's going to bring prices down anytime soon, Russ."Russ Mitchell then tossed leading and softball questions to his featured guest at the anchor desk, left-wing activist Eliot Spitzer, New York's Attorney General:
"And joining me is a man who's keeping a close watch on the rise in gas prices, the Attorney General of the state of New York, Eliot Spitzer, who's also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor. Attorney General, thanks for joining us today."
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D-NY): "My pleasure."
Mitchell: "As a consumer, it seems like it's the wild West. How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?"
Spitzer: "Very easy. And what we found after Katrina was that prices were going through the roof. Nobody was respectful of their legal obligation to abide by basic decency and New York state law that prohibits them from excessive price increases at a moment of dislocation such as a hurricane such as Katrina. And so it was very, very disturbing what we saw."
Mitchell: "You are suing several gas stations in the state of New York right now. And in your mind, how did they break the law?"
Spitzer: "They broke the law by increasing the price inordinately and outrageously compared to what they had to pay for it. In other words, people will say, 'Well, don't they pay more?' Yes, they paid more, but they doubled or tripled their profit margin at a time when there was a dislocation in the market from a hurricane. That was illegal and wrong."
Mitchell: "As consumers, of course, most of us have to buy gasoline. What would you advise us to do. What can we do to make this better?"
Spitzer: "Any consumer should comparison shop. The reality is you can go to four or five different gas stations, one of them will have a lower price. And if you go to that station with a lower price over time, that will help drive the price down. But realistically, as individual consumers, we cannot affect the global market or even the local market. We are the pawns in this battle."
Mitchell: "We're stuck."
Spitzer: "We are stuck."
Mitchell: "New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, thanks for joining us."
Spitzer: "Thank you very much."
NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams led:
"Good evening. While a nation of drivers and consumers does a slow burn over yet another sudden spike in the price of gas and with advocates for a greener America seeing red over what they see as a quickly degrading environment, today President Bush took on the topic of energy to mixed reviews. Specifically, his plans to divert oil from the nation's strategic oil reserve. The President wants to suspend some environmental rules on what kind of gas can be burned in cars during the summer. He has the government looking for price gouging and the President wants Congress to take away tax breaks from oil companies, some of which he just signed into law as part of the energy bill. It is a lot of ground to cover and it's a big and urgent issue in this country and we have it covered tonight."After David Gregory, Williams brought aboard David Gergen, of U.S. News and Harvard University, from Boston. Gregory's second of two questions:
"David, in the bigger picture sense, what are the chances, do you think, that we will look back on this period right now and say that in retrospect it was a period of transition for the United States from what's been called a carbon based society to one that's more green?"
David Gergen: "Well, one hopes that's the case, Brian, but we've had these kind of transition periods before and we've unfortunately we've taken an exit, an off ramp and never kept going. I was back in the White House in the early 1970s writing speeches about energy independence. We've been talking about this for over twenty years without succeeding. It's like school reform without true comprehensive reform. In this case, the coming together of a terrorism threat, the high prices of oil, and the looming sense that climate change really could be irreversible and extraordinarily dangerous, maybe this is the time when we'll break through and have a real political break through. But it's too early to say."
ABC's World News Tonight. Following Martha Raddatz on Bush's proposals, anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the newscast's second story of the night on gas prices:
"How much relief the President's proposals may eventually give to motorists filling up at the pump remains to be seen. But the oil markets reacted immediately to his speech. Crude oil prices fell to $72.88 a barrel, down 45 cents from yesterday. ABC's Betsy Stark has a 'Reality Check.'"
Betsy Stark: "The President's pledge to crack down on price gouging may help quiet critics who believe the market is being manipulated. But the reality is the industry is often accused and almost never found guilty."
Robin West, PFC Energy: "I don't think anyone's going to find anything. I think it just makes everyone feel better."
Stark: "Mr. Bush talked about getting prices down by promoting fuel efficiency, driving slower and driving less. But the reality is that will only lower prices if Americans change their behavior en masse."
West: "They like big, comfortable, heavy, inefficient cars to drive around in. That's fine. That's their choice. But they should realize there are consequences of that choice, and the consequence is higher prices."
Stark: "What could impact prices almost immediately is a suspension of environmental regulations. The reality here is that waiving the elaborate rules on summertime blends will likely push supplies up and prices down."
Fadel Gheit, Oppenheimer and Company energy analyst: "I would say it will bring gasoline prices down substantially within, say, two to three weeks. I would say by 20 cents at least, or even more."
Stark: "Over the long term, the President's proposal to develop alternative fuels, including hydrogen power and ethanol, could provide relief at the pump. And so could his plan to increase domestic supplies. But the reality is any relief from either of those proposals is probably years away."
Gheit: "It is not going to have any impact on gasoline prices next year, or for the next five or even ten years."
Stark: "As for Mr. Bush's plan to stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve for the summer, the reality is it may sound like a big deal, but it's really just a drop in the bucket."
West, PFC Energy: "It's a sensible step to take. There's nothing wrong with doing this. But this isn't a silver bullet."
Stark: "We heard that again and again today. No silver bullets, no quick fixes. Analysts say it's taken 25 years to get into this mess. And it's going to take years to get out of it. Probably not what Americans want to hear."
Vargas: "I was just going to say that's not what they're looking to hear right now. All right. Thanks, Betsy."