'Today' Drives Down Middle on Gas Prices: Debunks Dem Charges It's GOP's Fault

Fair reporting at the Today show is like snow in April. Rare, but not entirely unheard of. And so it was that the Today show devoted its opening segment to debunking Dem attempts to blame Republicans for high gasoline prices.

Matt Lauer set the tone with this opening tease: "Driving the political agenda: Democrats attack the Republicans for sky-high gas prices. What is really to blame?" And later, in introducing the segment, he repeated the theme: "Democrats are making an effort to pin the blame on Republicans. What is really causing all this?"

Today offered its answer in two parts: foreign and domestic causes.

Andrea Mitchell reported the following foreign causes:

  • America is now importing 2/3 of its oil, and many oil-producing countries are "teetering on the edge of crisis," naming Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and Venezuela.
  • China has become a "big new competitor for shrinking supplies" and has "leapfrogged Japan" for second place behind the US as a consumer. India was also mentioned as a growing consumer.
  • Supplies are razor thin. A traditional cushion of 6 million barrels has narrowed to 1 million, leaving the market vulnerable to shocks.

An expert was shown predicting that it's going to be a "horrific summer" for gas prices, with prices in the $3.50 range, potentially even higher potentially in some areas.

Anne Thompson, reporting from a gas station in Queens, stated that while the average price is 60 cents higher than a year ago, not everything can be blamed on events abroad. To be sure, she interviewed a consumer complaining about high oil-industry profits. But she pinned part of the blame on the use of ethanol, an additive of which three times as much is apparently required than the additive it is replacing, MTBE. She stated that concerns about possible ethanol shortages have driven gas prices higher. [Thank you - Archer Daniels!]

She next described the problem of a lack of refining capacity: refiners are turning out a half-million fewer gallons than a year ago due to some refineries being offline in the wake of Katrina. She didn't mention the environmentalists and the NIMBY phenomenon that have prevented the construction of any new refineries in 20 years.

An expert was brought in to predict something called "demand destruction" which turned out to be a fancy term for the laws of supply and demand. The higher gas prices will reduce demand, while those same higher prices will push production. He predicted as a result we'll ultimately see less demand, more supply and lower prices.

And those Democratic charges that the evil Republicans are to blame? Today didn't give them short shrift. It gave them no shrift at all. No Dem spokesman, not even a recitation of Dem arguments. A fair morning's reporting at Today. But like those fragile cherry blossoms of April, don't expect it to last long!

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.