Media Research Center

Free Market Project

2/10/2006 6:29:42 AM

Updated 01/25/06

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Gas Hysteria
Networks continue gas price hype
ABC does note the cause of the problem is that businesses can’t build new refineries.

     The media continue to overplay the gas price story. The Free Market Project takes a daily look at the best and worst of what the media have to offer. Today: $75 per barrel? And poor Los Angelinos learning how to walk. But ABC’s “World News Tonight” deserves credit for its refinery story that showed how U.S. refinery capacity has fallen by 2.7 million barrels of oil a day. Even more, Betsy Stark showed clearly how massive environmental regulations prevent the construction of new refineries and keep gas prices high.

     Here are some of the latest high and low points:

  • No new refineries: Stark told how new refineries have been built in 30 years and explained the saga of one prospective refinery in the Arizona desert. Stark explained: “It’s taken five years to get the air quality permits. The site had to be moved from Phoenix to Yuma for environmental reasons. And after a decade of planning, they still haven't broken ground.”
  • Not a record: First off, no matter how many times the media say gas prices are hitting new highs, don’t believe them. They aren’t. The latest culprits include Bob Roberts of “CBS Evening News”
  • Out of the mouths of babes: CBS pulled out all the stops to hit viewers. Trish Regan even used a little baby to scream “Gas is very expensive!” almost incoherently.
  • $75 a barrel for oil?: CBS quoted a Deutsche Bank analyst who say we may be having a slowdown in the economy “as we approach $75 a barrel oil.” Regan didn’t mention that the current price of oil is nearly $9 below that price at $66.25. Instead, she added. “And if we're looking at $75 a barrel, things could get worse before they get better.”
  • Get the price right: Regan thinks $2.55 (the average price per gallon in the U.S.) is a lot higher than it is and claims “Even preschoolers can do the math” when network reporters clearly can’t. Regan explained: “With prices hovering near $3.00 a gallon, consumers are still filling up those big tanks, but they're trying to tighten their belts elsewhere.”
  • Walking, what a concept: “CBS Evening News” reporter Sandra Hughes bemoaned those who were driven to “the unthinkable” in Los Angeles – “mass transit.” She ended her piece feeling bad for people who were doing something “most in Los Angeles wouldn’t have considered until now – walking.”
  • Support for the war?: “NBC Nightly News” went to “Republican stronghold” of Concordia, Kansas to ask them about support for the war. Somehow, Carl Quintinilla ended up mixing in gas prices, like the two issues are significantly related. And they aren’t. Quintinilla began: “Even before sunrise in Concordia, Kansas, the coffee's hot. So are the gripes about gas prices.” After a comment from a diner patron about the cost of fuel, Quintinilla jumped right into the talk of the war: “But support for the war is rarely questioned.”
  • ‘Pain at the pump’: NBC continued its series with a piece on hybrid cars, poking holes in the theory that they are that much better than other cars. Anne Thompson said also the “technology is expensive, adding $3,000 to almost $12,000 to the price.” Automotive consumer Web site said, according to Thompson, “only the Prius saved the buyer money after five years, just $81 over a conventional Camry.”
  • It’s an average: “Good Morning America’s” Charles Gibson emphasized the high end of the average gas price with this remark: “And we're going to turn next to a segment that we might as well call you think you got it bad, we'll talk about skyrocketing gas price. The average price $2.50. Some places well over $3.” Gibson could note that if gas is “well over $3” some places, it is well below the national average of $2.55 in others.
  • And in Europe: At least GMA told how government gone wild can boost gas prices. ABC’s Jim Sciutto explained that “In Europe a trip to the gas station can feel like a shopping spree” that can cost a family of four with two cars about $800 a month. “The reason? High taxes which in europe account for as much as two-thirds of the price of a gallon,” explained Sciutto.


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