Higher Gas Prices the ‘Price of Cleaner Air’

ABC, CBS, NBC promote new EPA regulations, undermine critics.

New EPA regulations could increase the price of gas by nine cents or more when they take effect in the next four years, American Petroleum Institute (API) scientists say. However, ABC, CBS and NBC  news programs gave little credence to those concerns, and hyped EPA’s claims of “significant health benefits” instead.

ABC was the worst of the three. Diane Sawyer and Jim Avila on the March 29 “World News” spoke of alleged benefits of the new environmental regulations which would further reduce sulfur emissions. Meanwhile, “World News” not only failed to give equal time to opponents of the regulations, they portrayed them as greedy.

“The American oil industry, with net profits of more than $300 billion over the last five years, says big oil and the nation’s drivers cannot afford to pay even a penny more to further reduce the amount of air polluting sulfur in gasoline,” Avila said sternly, while the number “$300 billion” hovered over a graphic of an offshore oil rig.

Avila did include a representative of API, in which he asked “you can’t afford one to ten cents a gallon?” The only clip they included of the API representative related to earning profits for shareholders, further bolstering ABC’s image of gas and oil companies as greedy polluters.

The new regulations would slash emissions of certain pollutants by up to 80 percent, including reducing sulfur emissions by 60 percent, according to the official EPA press release. Oil companies and Republican lawmakers argue that the regulations would have little or no environmental benefits, while noticeably increasing the price of gas. Diane Sawyer referred to such a cost increase as “the price of cleaner air” in her introduction to Avila’s report.

But according to an API press release, the EPA regulations provide “little or no environmental benefit” and would actually increase carbon emissions. API also said that if the EPA added vapor pressure production requirements, the regulations could raise costs by up to 25 cents a gallon. With many Americans already struggling in this economy and gas at $3.64-a-gallon on average the increase would come at a hefty price.

The other networks also reported on the new regulation. The March 29 NBC “Nightly News” and March 30 “Today” show aired the same segment portraying the decision as a choice between clean air and a price increase of a few cents a gallon. Like ABC, CBS “Evening News” mentioned the EPA’s claims that the regulations would save consumers money by cutting down health care costs for respiratory problems. But CBS and NBC did mention the concerns over price increases, albeit briefly.

ABC’s “Good Morning America,” in their brief coverage of the story, included one line noting that “some refiners, though, say the new rules could raise gasoline production costs by nearly 10 cents per gallon” before adding that “the EPA claims it would more likely be one cent per gallon.”

ABC’s Jim Avila has a track record of attacking business, although his recent targets have been in the food industry. These attacks have included a series of hits against Beef Product Inc’s product lean finely textured beef, which cost 650 jobs. On Sept. 13, 2012, Beef Products Inc. filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit against ABC for the coverage of “pink slime.” Avila is specifically named in this lawsuit for his part in the anti-meat attacks.

The proposed environmental standards are in line with California’s current regulations. California currently has the second highest gas prices, after Hawaii. This isn’t the first time that the networks have campaigned for the rest of the nation to follow California’s example of high regulation and fuel taxes. The media love to use the state to hype high gasoline prices, although the networks rarely report on the government regulations that helps keep California’s gas costs among the highest in the country.