USA Today Cover Story Down on Drilling, Up on Alternative Fuels to Ease Gas Prices

     Another mainstream media outlet is taking another stab at solving high gas prices.


     The latest incarnation appeared in the June 13 USA Today – evaluating what could be done about several factors contributing to a spike in the global price of oil, which impacts the price of a gallon of gas.


     One sidebar headlined “Drilling more helps – a little” suggested that the effects of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf would have negligible effects on the price of gasoline. USA Today correspondent Richard Wolf cited an analyst with the liberal group the Union of Concern Scientists.


     “But David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a research and environmental advocacy group, says the USA has just 3% of the world's oil reserves, and the reduction in gas prices from such a plan wouldn't amount to much: ‘One to three cents per gallon is the definition of a drop in the bucket.’”


     However, one of the sidebars suggested another consequence of drilling. Speculators have been blamed for driving up oil prices, but as Alaskan Republican Rep. Don Young pointed out, drilling in ANWR would scare off some of the speculators driving gas prices up.


     “If we passed ANWR, it would drop $10 to $15 off the price of a barrel of oil because speculators would see that we’re serious about increasing domestic production,” Young said to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on May 22.


     USA Today instead embraced alternative energy as a “surefire way to cut fuel costs.” The sidebar by Paul Davidson also cited Friedman and said ethanol technology that hasn’t been perfected yet was the answer.


    “The answer: cheaper cellulosic ethanol, now being developed, made from switch grass, wood chips and municipal solid waste. Such ethanol, if widely used, could bring back $2-per-gallon gasoline, says David Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists,” Davidson wrote.


     Even environmentalists, though, have conceded the “cellulosic ethanol” technology may not work. The left-leaning said in March that “A quiet consensus seems to be forming among people you'd think would know the facts on the ground: cellulosic ethanol, touted as five years away from viability for decades now, may never be viable. ” (emphasis added by Grist)


     USA Today also suggested purchasing a more expensive hybrid car, which would save $700 annually for someone who drives 12,000 miles a year as “a shorter-term” solution instead of drilling for more oil.


     “Hybrid cars offer a shorter-term solution,” Davidson wrote. “The Toyota Prius costs $2,000 more than a comparable compact car but gets 45 miles per gallon. At $4 a gallon for gas, the Prius saves about $700 a year in fuel costs vs. a similar car, assuming 12,000 miles of driving a year, Friedman says. Waiting lists to buy a Prius can be several months.”


     However, radio talk show host and FOX Business Network host David Ramsey pointed out on ABC’s June 10 “Good Morning America” that buying a new car doesn’t necessarily make good economic sense.

     “Well, it would be better for the overall economy if we reduced the consumption, but as a personal financial guy, helping a single mom trying to make ends meet and those kind of things, you don't want to do that,” Ramsey said. “The average family, if you buy a new [hybrid] car to save on gas and spend $10,000 more for the gas – or for the car, only save $10 a week on the gas as the average, that’s not going to work out. You got to drive the thing to the moon and back to make that work.”