The May 8th issue of "U.S. News and World Report" featured an article about high gas prices. Now, the fact that a news magazine would look at the rising cost of gas is not a surprise. But, that a magazine would dedicate a section to interviewing someone who served in the gas line plagued Carter Administration about what the solution to high gas prices is, does come as somewhat of a surprise. Does U.S. News and World Report forget the oil shortages under the Carter Administration. Does the magazine forget the "odd" and "even" licence plates?
The article in question appeared on page 26 and was entitled "Why a Gas Tax is Good For You." The article contained three softball questions at gas tax proponent Philip Verleger, who served in the Carter Treasury Department.
The first 2 questions were aimed at setting Verleger up so he could advocated why the gas tax was the best option.
"President Bush is going to stop adding crude oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. What impact will the have?"
Verleger claimed it wouldn’t work because there isn’t any spare refining capacity in the U.S.
The magazine followed up and inquired about what effect lessening environmental standards would have on gas prices:
"How about the proposed waivers of environmental regualtions?"
On this, even Verleger had to admit it would lower prices:
"We could knock a dollar a gallon off the retail price of gasoline if we did a couple things on environmental rules. My environmental friends look at me and say ‘Phil why are you saying this?’ I propose a trade off. Bush has called for construction of new refineries. It takes years to build a refinery. It takes one year to build an ethanol plant. Let’s move toward ethanol more rapidly. We’ll suffer the cost of higher pollution this year, and then next year, we’re going to insist that people use more ethanol...Insist all gasoline has to have 10% ethanol."
Given this answer, it seems Verleger is more concerned about the environment than reducing gas prices. This view is reinforced by his answer to the question of why a gasoline taxwould be good. And he’s not talking about a modest increase; he’s talking about raising it a few dollars per gallon.\
"You frequently advocate a gasoline tax, while acknowledging it’s a political non starter. What good would it do?
Verleger’s answer begins by citing global warming.
"First, global warming. We’re burning too much. I think everybody but George Bush and Dick Cheney understands the problem. You have to force people to use less. Second, were we to adopt a gasoline tax of $2 or $3 a gallon, offset by a reduction in Social Security [payroll taxes] and some other things to minimize the effects [on working Americans], our consumption would be significantly lower."
To be fair, a version of this proposal has been floated by more conservative thinkers like Charles Krauthammer. But why would "U.S. News and World Report" want to push an idea that would double the cost of gas? They emphasize the notion that consumers are fed up with the high prices and want Congress to lower the price of gas. From a separate article entitled "Pumped Up," that appeared on pages 25-27, which cites the anger of the American people over the issue and the potential political fallout from it, author Marianne Lavelle notes:
"...Pollster Daniel Yankelovich found that 85% of Americans believe the government could do something about oil prices if it tried."
Why would the media help push a plan that will drastically raise the price of gas, when it is clear from it’s own reporting that the American people want policies enacted that will lower it?