Network Morning Shows Celebrate 'April Fuel's Day' Bashing 'Big Oil'
Itâ€™s that time of the year â€“ the oil company CEO-grilling time.
As driving season heats up, a congressional committee has summoned oil executives and the media are laying the blame for gas prices again.
On ABCâ€™s April 1 â€śGood Morning America,â€ť which headlined one of its segments â€śApril Fuelâ€™s Day,â€ť Chris Cuomo questioned why oil companies arenâ€™t taxed more while theyâ€™re posting higher profits.
â€śCongress is calling all the oil companies on the carpet today,â€ť Cuomo said. â€śLawmakers want to know why big oil needs billions in tax breaks while posting record profits of $123 billion. Consumers want answers too. Gas now runs $3.29 a gallon, up three cents from last week and 58 percent higher than last year. Oil executives argue they need tax breaks to expand production.â€ť
Of course, network news rarely reports how much those companies are already paying in taxes. For example, Exxon paid $105 billion in taxes in 2007, more than two-and-a-half times as much as it made in profit, the Business & Media Institute recently reported.
And higher costs in the form of more taxes for oil companies are not likely to make the price of gas down, according to The Heritage Foundationâ€™s Ben Lieberman. When this same issue came up in 2006, Lieberman explained punishing oil companies with the tax code is not going to help consumers.
â€śMany in Congress are looking to provide Americans with relief at the gas pump, but raising taxes on the oil industry is not the way to do it,â€ť Lieberman wrote. â€śThe track record for punitive measures like the windfall profits tax shows that they usually harm consumers along with the targeted industry.â€ť
The April 1 CBS â€śEarly Showâ€ť also went after oil companies, questioning why theyâ€™re â€śraking in huge profits.â€ť
â€śIf gas prices seem painfully high right now, youâ€™re absolutely right. They just hit a new record,â€ť CBS correspondent Chip Reid said. â€śItâ€™s no wonder drivers are angry. The price of gas is burning holes in their pockets. According to AAA, the average price of unleaded regular has hit a new high, just under $3.29 a gallon. Only a year ago it was $2.67 a gallon. Thatâ€™s up 25 percent, an annual increase that AAA calls staggering. And it comes at a time when oil companies are raking in huge profits.â€ť
Fuel taxes, however, also hit consumers in the wallet. Drivers in California pay more than 45 cents per gallon in state taxes, in addition to the federal 18-cent tax. With those taxes taken out of the national average, it would be $2.66.
The reports came on the same day oil company executives are set to testify before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming â€“ the committee set up by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that has no legislative authority.
â€śExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) made a record $40.7 billion last year alone,â€ť Reid said. â€śLater today, top executives of the five biggest oil companies â€“ ExxonMobil, Chevron (NYSE:CVX), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), Shell (LON:RDSA) and BP [British Petroleum] (LON:BP), are expected to get an earful from hostile members of Congress. Some, led by Democratic chairman Ed Markey, have already made clear they believe consumers are being ripped off.â€ť
NBCâ€™s April 1 â€śTodayâ€ť wasnâ€™t sympathetic toward the oil companies either â€“ saying the companies got â€śbig tax breaks.â€ť
â€śOil company executives will be in the hot seat on Capitol Hill as Congress holds a hearing on big tax breaks for big oil,â€ť NBCâ€™s Ann Curry said. â€śTop five oil companies earned record prices because of soaring oil and gas prices.â€ť
In Cuomoâ€™s report, he referred to the rising cost of diesel fuel and its impact on the trucking industry.
â€śMany truck drivers frustrated by soaring diesel prices are protesting today by parking trucks or slowing down,â€ť Cuomo said. â€śDiesel prices now top $4 a gallon.â€ť
The â€śGood Morning Americaâ€ť report came one day after Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton railed against oil companies on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania at a truckersâ€™ protest.
â€śOil companies are making so much money now,â€ť Clinton said. â€śAnd part of it is, weâ€™re subsidizing them.â€ť
According to the April 1 Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.), after meeting with truckers protesting the higher fuel prices in Harrisburg, Pa., Clinton said she would take the $55 billion in tax breaks now given to oil and drug companies and Wall Street â€śand give it back to you.â€ť She has said in the past she wanted to â€śtakeâ€ť oil companiesâ€™ profits.
However, one of the main things the truckers were protesting was the high tax on diesel fuel.
â€śAs truckers called upon state and federal lawmakers to eliminate the taxes on diesel fuel, Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in the area offered plans to wean the country off foreign oil,â€ť Mike Wereschagin, Brad Bumsted and Salena Zito wrote in the April 1 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Amy Menefee contributed to this report.