A sure sign of spring is the launch of media hysteria about the increasing cost of gasoline.
“Gas prices are not just creeping up again, they’re shooting up and we’re still a long way from summer,” said anchor Charles Gibson as he introduced the lead story on “World News” for March 12.
The same night, NBC “Nightly News” used an onscreen graphic to exaggerate gas prices. “Take a look at these numbers,” said anchor Campbell Brown as a picture of a station sign reading $2.99 scrolled by – noticeably higher than the March 12 average of $2.54 for a gallon of regular gas.
The blame for the current gas price hikes lies primarily with a regular, seasonal occurrence. While he didn’t emphasize it, NBC’s Tom Costello had it right when he mentioned “that mandatory switch to the summer [fuel] blends” that is taking place right now.
“World News” explained that the switch and increased demand were causing the increase, but ABC reporter Dean Reynolds added, “all of this leads to questions about oil company profiteering.”
To its credit, the show did include a statement from independent energy analyst Bill Paul, who said it was not profiteering and companies are “charging what the market will bear.”
But both programs hyped higher costs, citing experts predicting $3 a gallon or higher and mentioning expensive gas in California.
“And it’s probably gonna go above $3, another analyst we spoke to said he expected 50-cent increases in each of the next three years,” stated Reynolds.
NBC’s Costello said that “most experts” predict gas will go to $3 a gallon and stay there throughout the summer.
Neither Reynolds nor Costello explained the regulations and taxes that cause gas, especially in California, to be so costly.
California has “more stringent requirements” than the federal standard – that combined with higher state and local gasoline excise taxes cause the state to have significantly higher prices, according to the Energy Information Administration .
CNN’s “American Morning” added to the pump panic on March 13. They aired complaints from a service station owner who was “being hurt by high gas prices” and “is throwing in the gas-soaked towel,” according to anchor Miles O’Brien.
The man, David Goldsmith of New York City, told CNN “in his own words” that he chose to stop selling gas because he couldn’t purchase it at a low enough price and was losing money.
“As long as we have the free market and the oil companies dictating our energy policy we’re always gonna have problems with price gouging and price spikes,” declared Goldsmith.