The recent massive oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico led to in-depth reports by all three network newscasts, but only NBC spun the news negatively. There it was portrayed as a loss to environmentalists and consumers.
On his September 5 “Nightly News” broadcast, anchor Brian Williams painted the new discovery as an unfortunate development. While “some cheered the news that this huge expanse of oil has been found,” Williams noted, “others heard the news and wondered how America would ever end what the president has called this nation’s addiction to oil.”
Correspondent Martin Savidge fielded the story, dismissing the estimated 3 billion to 15 billion barrel reserve and going on to complain about the cost and the unprecedented difficulty in drilling on the new site.
The “discovery is not expected to trigger a significant reduction in America’s dependence on foreign oil,” Savidge complained.
To back up that assertion, the correspondent aired a sound bite from Jim Presswood of the liberal Natural Resources Defense Council, who cautioned that “we need to find faster, cheaper and cleaner alternatives.”
Yet the NBC reporter didn’t alert viewers that the NRDC is a liberal advocacy group that doesn’t just want to promote alternative fuels but mandate oil use reductions.
“We already import almost 60 percent of our oil, making us dangerously dependent” on “a precarious energy source,” NRDC noted in “A Responsible Energy Plan for America.” To reach a goal of “cutting our demand [for oil] by 40 percent,” NRDC went on to advocate that “Congress should pass legislation requiring the country to cut oil use by at least 2.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2015 and 10 million barrels per day by 2025.”
Those type of mandates favored by NRDC would likely raise prices at the pump, yet Savidge went on to paint increased oil supplies as a threat to the consumer’s bottom line.
“The oil also won’t be cheap. Just to reach it required drilling over 5 miles, making it one of the deepest wells ever at a cost of a reported $100 million,” he complained, adding that “the new oil’s not expected to show up here at the pump for another four years at the earliest, leaving a lot of motorists far from thrilled.”
But what Savidge left out is that the heavy profits oil companies have earned as high oil prices are financing the exploration of Site 2. On the September 5 “World News with Charles Gibson,” correspondent Betsy Stark noted that tapping the oil in Site 2 was too costly years ago, but feasible now with high oil prices and “record profits” in the oil industry.
Over on CBS, reporter Anthony Mason told viewers the oil industry has the financial wherewithal to finance the costly drilling operation, noting that Shell alone “still made a $25 billion profit last year” even though it cost “hundreds of millions” of dollars to repair oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
None of the September 5 newscasts mentioned another untapped oil reserve in American hands: the northern coastal plain of ANWR, which the U.S. government estimates to have “a mean expected value of 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.” The NRDC also opposes any drilling in ANWR, with NRDC Action Fund celebrity spokesman Robert Redford accusing the Bush administration of seeking to “industrialize the Refuge for the sake of oil company profits.”
But far from “industrializing” a pristine nature preserve, a Heritage Foundation energy analyst estimated in March 2002 that drilling operations would entail a small “footprint” for oil drilling of about 2,000 acres in the 19.5 million acre expanse of ANWR, around 0.01 percent of the Reserve.