Written by Nathan Burchfiel
June 11, 2008
By Nathan Burchfiel
Business & Media Institute
Climate change activists in elected office, lobbying and the media view rising fuel costs as 'the best thing that can possibly happen.'
Has has finally hit $4 a gallon. Most Americans are upset about the cost, but to some journalists, environmental activists and politicians, high gas prices are good news.
Even though the media have complained about “sky-high” gas prices, reporting the pain caused at the pump, they have declared energy conservation the “clear winner” from rising prices and have even called for higher prices to boost the “green” movement, as The New York Times did as early as 2005.
Meanwhile, elected officials have offered short-term proposals to lower gas prices – like Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) summer “gas tax holiday” – and long-term proposals to hike gas prices, like Rep. John Dingell’s (D-Mich.) idea to raise the federal gas tax by 50 cents per gallon. And environmental activists overtly praise pain at the pump and lobby for more federal taxes on fuel.
The biggest lie in America [sic] politics today is to say you care deeply about global warming and advocate for the price of gas to go down. Those are mutually exclusive concepts,” AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said in the April 25 Newsweek, pointing out the great hypocrisy of anyone in the “green movement” complaining about high gas prices.
The media have had it both ways, bashing Big Oil for allegedly making prices high while praising the same high prices for the effect they may have on warming-related emissions.
“[I]t’s time to pay a price to curb global warming,” the Christian Science Monitor declared in a May 12 editorial. “Rather than prevent $4-a-gallon gas now, legislators should welcome it.”
“Congress must impose a ‘carbon’ tax on fossil-fuel use,” the newspaper’s editors said, “from electric utilities to home furnaces to gas-guzzling vehicles.”
Brian O’Connor, the Money & Life editor for the Detroit News, wrote in a May 31 column that high gas prices would be good for Michigan’s struggling economy.
In its “Conventional Wisdom” feature May 22, Newsweek declared energy conservation “the clear winner as oil creeps toward $200 a barrel.”
The media have been pushing for more expensive gas for years – all while complaining about high gas prices, as CNN did on “American Morning” May 23 when host John Roberts repeated a viewer’s complaint that high gas prices forced him to abandon satellite television.
Wastler wasn’t the first to suggest more gas taxes on CNN. In April 2006, Miles O’Brien said there “could be a good argument for a gas tax in all of this to help pay for these alternative fuels.”
“I hope gas prices go as high as they have to go to get the rest of these morons off the road in these big Hummers,” CNN’s Jack Cafferty said on “In the Money” March 25, 2006.
Members of the media have been waiting a very long time for prices to hit $4.
“For anyone with a fresh idea, expensive oil is as good as a subsidy – with no political strings attached,” Wired.com contributing editor Spencer Reiss wrote in December 2005. “And smile when you see a big black $3 or $4 out in front at the gas pump. Those innovators need all the encouragement they can get. Shale oil, uranium, sunlight – there’s enough energy out there for a dozen planets.”
In October 2005, when gas was around $2.85 a gallon, The New York Times called expensive gas “the best solution” to terrorist, environmental and economic threats. “The best solution is to increase the federal gasoline tax, in order to keep the price of gas near its post-Katrina high of $3-plus a gallon,” the newspaper’s editors wrote in an editorial.
In his 2000 book “Earth in the Balance,” former Vice President Al Gore advocated increasing energy taxes on consumers to decrease the incentive to pollute. Seven years earlier, in 1993, Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to increase the federal gas tax to 18.4 cents, where it stands today.
Elected officials in Congress are still working to harness the power of federal taxes to fund the “green” agenda and have been working to raise the price of gas even as it rises due to market forces.
In August 2007, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., floated the idea of increasing the federal gas tax by 50 cents per gallon. The Christian Science Monitor called him “courageous.” Dingell shelved the plan in April 2008, when gas was nearing $3.50 a gallon, saying “now is not the time for us to put any additional burden on the working families of Michigan or this nation.”
In January 2008, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a group created by Congress in 2005 to study surface transportation needs, recommended a 40-cent increase in the gas tax spread out over five years for infrastructure upgrades.
Recently the Senate rejected the Lieberman-Warner “cap-and-trade” bill, legislation aimed at reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Opponents warned the measure would lead to increases at the pump of anywhere from $1.50 to $5 per gallon.
Politicians like Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican nominee for president, have publicly supported efforts to reduce the cost of gasoline. McCain proposed a widely criticized “gas tax holiday” that would have eliminated the federal gas tax for the summer.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., formerly a contender for the Democratic nomination, supported a similar plan that would have added a “windfall profits” tax on oil companies. Her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), now the Democrats’ candidate, opposed the gas tax holiday and also supports taxing oil companies more.
But all three support global warming-related energy control legislation that would increase the cost of energy, leading some – like AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson in Newsweek – to point out the mutual exclusivity of global warming legislation and lower energy prices.
Alternative forms of energy are less efficient and usually less attractive to an open market than oil and coal, but higher gas prices give environmentalists an opportunity to exploit pain at the pump.
NBC’s Anne Thompson noted on the March 12 “Nightly News” that higher energy prices would be good for alternative forms of energy like solar and wind power, which can cost two to four times as much as coal and oil.
In May 2006, Earth Policy Institute president Lester Brown proposed a gasoline tax hike of 30 cents per gallon every year for the next 10 years. He said higher prices would spur investment in alternative energy and public transportation and decrease dependence on foreign oil.
In March 2008, as gas prices rose closer and closer to $4, Brown maintained that an increased tax was a good idea, telling Fox News that “a tax on gas is a way to reduce dependence on import oil, reduce traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions.”