Fox News exploited the violent turmoil in Iraq to baselessly lay blame for increasing gasoline and oil prices at the feet of President Obama. Fox hosts cited Obama's alleged "policy mistakes" in Iraq as the impetus for the rising cost of petroleum products, continuing a long pattern of attacking Obama over the price of gasoline while ignoring the fact that global market trends are largely out of the president's control.
On the June 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney discussed the impact of the recent turmoil in Iraq on the global oil market. Varney used the opportunity to attack President Obama for the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq from 2009 through 2011:
VARNEY: Let me make this very clear, we are all paying for the president's policy mistakes. The retreat in Iraq, the chaos in Iraq, will be paid for by us at the pump.
The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was completed on December 18, 2011. According to data from the United States Energy Information Agency (EIA), the market prices of crude oil and refined gasoline have fluctuated since that time, but the withdrawal itself spurred no appreciable price corrections. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, overlaying the prices for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil with inflation adjusted prices for gasoline, confirm that the withdrawal had no lasting impact on market prices:
Reputable market analysts agree that the outbreak of violence in Iraq -- the world's eighth largest oil producer -- is driving market speculation and investment in petroleum futures. This in turn has resulted in a slight, but noticeable increase in global crude oil market prices during the past several days. Varney is correct in noting that instability in Iraq is impacting global oil prices, but his analysis veered into well-worn Fox News paranoia when he used that fact to pin the blame for rising prices on President Obama.
Fox has a storied history of blaming this president for rising oil and gasoline prices.
Business media have been spreading the myth that the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to rein in carbon pollution will harm the American manufacturing industry by increasing electricity prices. But a new report by a group of business leaders found that the manufacturing industry is at far greater economic risk from the extreme weather events that the EPA's clean power plan would help prevent.
When the EPA proposed standards for the carbon pollution driving climate change for existing power plants, several top U.S. business media outlets promoted claims that the rules would harm manufacturers. Reuters published two articles that uncritically repeated utility industry lobbyists' claims that the rules will "destroy jobs" at "manufacturing plants." The Wall Street Journal cited a steel industry spokesman that claimed the rules will "impede the post-recession growth of American manufacturing" without criticism, and the newspaper's editorial board suggested that the rules will "punish" regions that rely on manufacturing. Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight hosted Steve Milloy, a policy director at coal giant Murray Energy, who lambasted the rules, stating: "if you work in manufacturing, do you want to see your job exported to China?"
However, an analysis by Business Forward -- an association of American business leaders focused on sound public policy -- found that extreme weather events will have severe economic impacts on the automotive manufacturing industry in the United States, while any increase in electricity prices as a result of turning to clean power will have minimal costs for the manufacturing industries. The analysis has not been covered* by the prominent business media outlets that promoted claims that the standards would harm manufacturers.
For example, automakers, who represent the nation's largest industrial sector, are extremely vulnerable to disruptions in the global supply chain caused by extreme weather events. The study found that extreme weather events -- many of which are happening more frequently -- can cause an auto assembly plant to shut down at immense costs of $1.25 million or more per hour. Business Forward explained that even when extreme weather events happen on the other side of the globe, they impact manufacturers:
Because supply chains are global, disruptions on the other side of the planet can slow down or shut down an American factory. For example, in October 2011, severe floods in Thailand affected more than 1,000 industrial facilities. Production by consumer electronics manufacturers in the U.S. dropped by one-third.
The carbon standards, by contrast, would cost the automotive industry far less because electricity is a "comparatively small portion" of their total costs. The report found that if electricity costs increased by 6.2 percent by 2020, it would add less than $7 to the cost of producing car that sells on average for $30,000. Overall, this would cost the average auto assembly plant about $1.1 million, or the equivalent of less than an hour of assembly line downtime at a single auto plant each year. The EPA estimates that electricity prices will increase slightly as a result of the standards, but efficiency improvements will lower electric bills by 2025.
A Media Matters analysis of Fox News coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed carbon pollution standards finds that long after a report from the Chamber of Commerce was discredited, Fox News continued to cite it. In addition, Fox News only hosted politicians who opposed EPA standards and who have altogether received over $1.6 million in contributions from fossil fuel industries in 2014.
An Associated Press article about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations to cut carbon emissions failed to disclose that Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a source it cited criticizing the proposal, is a front group for the Koch brothers that routinely makes false attacks against clean energy initiatives.
A June 2 AP article reported that Colorado could serve as a model for reducing carbon emissions while handling its energy needs, following comments from the Obama Administration and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). The article cited Dustin Zvonek, the Colorado director of Americans for Prosperity, which the outlet described as a group "which warns the EPA's rules would cost billions and lead to higher energy costs," but failed to mention the organization's oil industry funding:
"There's still a lot to be clarified," said Dustin Zvonek, Colorado director of the group Americans For Prosperity, which warns the EPA's rules would cost billions and lead to higher energy costs. Zvonek said Colorado's action to cut carbon emissions may have only prompted an even lower bar to meet.
"Are we going to be penalized or punished for the fuel-switching standard and therefore take an even bigger hit? That's not clear," Zvonek said.
Among AFP's major supporters are brothers David and Charles Koch, their charitable foundations and their company, Koch Industries, Inc., which has significant operations in oil and gas exploration and coal supply and trading. A 2012 report by the International Forum on Globalization explained that the Koch brothers have used their wealth to attempt to block legislation or rules aimed at mitigating the damage climate change is causing.
Greenpeace reported that AFP has received nearly $6 million from Koch-affiliated groups from 2005-2011.
Editorial boards across the country continue to use the Chamber of Commerce's study to claim that the Environmental Protection Agency's new carbon pollution standards will cost jobs and increase electricity bills, even though that study incorrectly assumed that the standards would be stricter and would require expensive technology.
The Environmental Protection Agency's forthcoming regulations on greenhouse gas emissions will provide legally required protection for the health and welfare of Americans at a cheap cost, while allowing states flexibility -- contrary to media fearmongering about the landmark standards.
From the May 28 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News brushed aside the value of Environmental Protection Agency research grants for clean cooking and heating technologies, saying that the dangerous indoor pollution from dirty stoves is only "a mere contribution" to 4.3 million deaths, and fearmongered that the EPA would soon come after American stoves. However, even Fox News' "favorite" environmental pundit has said that the fact that millions are dying from dirty cooking stoves -- more deaths than from AIDS and malaria combined -- is an "immediate problem."
One year ago, New York City launched its bike share program to the chagrin of a Wall Street Journal editorial board member who claimed it was a "totalitarian" instrument of "aesthetic torture" that has "appalled" New Yorkers. However, the program has survived conservative attacks on it and proven immensely popular, with nearly 9 million rides in its first year.
Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of Wall Street Journal's editorial board, made waves last year by railing against the launch of Citi Bike, New York City's bike share program. In a video op-ed on WSJ Live, Rabinowitz derided the "totalitarian"-backed program that has "begrimed" NYC neighborhoods, saying the city is "helpless" to the wishes of its "autocratic" mayor and the bike lobby.
Even after Rabinowitz' argument was mocked on both the Colbert Report and The Daily Show, Rabinowitz stuck to her vendetta, dubbing the bike racks "instruments of aesthetic torture," and her colleagues defended her. She is not alone among conservatives for displaying an irrational hatred of bicyclists. Soon afterward, Fox Business' Melissa Francis called the Citi Bike racks a "nuisance" and an "eyesore," putting it frankly: "I hate these bikes." But they have proven to be the exception rather than the rule.
Rabinowitz claimed that she represented "the majority of [NYC] citizens" who are equally "appalled" by the bike share program, but polling has shown the opposite with even the Wall Street Journal itself dubbing the bike share "popular." Before the program was launched, polls from Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute found that 74 percent of New Yorkers polled agreed the bike rental program was a "good idea." One month after its launch, the same institute found that only 20 percent were opposed to the program, with the majority of every "age, income party, gender and educational group" supporting the program:
Fox News host Sean Hannity's attempt to blame oil spills from deepwater drilling on environmentalists rather than under-regulated oil companies was debunked by a news service that largely serves energy industry clients.
On May 22, Hannity spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, a state that has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas production. Platts, an industry journal that specializes in covering the oil industry for those employed in relevant industries, reported in coverage of the conference that "Hannity did not know some important details about the drilling industry" including falsely claiming that oil companies were drilling in deepwater because environmentalists forced them out of shallower waters.
In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010, Sean Hannity and other Fox News figures repeatedly claimed that BP was only drilling in dangerous deepwater because environmentalists had "pushed us out there." However, as Media Matters pointed out at the time and Platts is now reporting, companies were actually drilling in deepwater due to discoveries of large, potentially lucrative reserves there.
Platts also pointed out that a reporter challenged Hannity on his portrayal of the fossil fuel industry as a panacea for unemployment, noting that some states "such as Vermont, Georgia or Idaho, which have no oil production" while North Dakota has "naturally abundant resources" (North Dakota also has a very small population, making the impact of the boom on the unemployment rate unusual compared to the rest of the country). Hannity, who has been hosting fossil fuel companies on his radio show as part of a "Get America Back to Work campaign," reportedly replied that increasing oil production in some states would trickle down to other areas.
The Associated Press summarized Hannity's speech as arguing that "government needs to get out of the way" of the oil industry. However, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston argued instead that the government needs to get involved in North Dakota, where worker fatalities have soared because "preventing accidents costs much more than paying off the families of dead workers." An AFL-CIO study found that North Dakota has more workers dying on the job than any other state -- with a worker fatality rate "more than five times the national average" and "one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state." The study noted that "the oil and gas industry in North Dakota has been a major source of these fatalities" and that North Dakota's fatality rate has "more than doubled" since 2007, around the time that North Dakota's oil boom took off.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe suggested that in his new video he would show that "a lot" of environmental "propaganda" is funded by foreign oil interests. O'Keefe duped two small-time filmmakers into accepting funding from a man posing as an oil tycoon from the Middle East, but his attempts to broaden the scope of the sting to more prominent organizations and activists were based on deceptive edits.
O'Keefe hyped his latest YouTube video, titled "Expose: Hollywood's War On U.S. Energy," by suggesting in a fundraising email that it would expose "the darker side of how a lot of the feel-good environmentalist propaganda gets funded by international interests who jeopardize national security." In it, he convinces the filmmakers of FRACKED, an upcoming documentary about the risks of fracking, to accept funding from an actor posing as "Muhammed," an oil tycoon from the Middle East who is being represented by an ad executive. The filmmakers said in a statement that they agreed to this funding because "It was understood that the investor would have no control over the content of the film and that we, the directors, would have final cut. We thought to ourselves 'oh the irony! We'll use the funding from an oil company to make a film that promotes green energy!'" Encouraging reliance on green energy, rather than oil from domestic or foreign sources, is essential to national security and it's not clear how a real "Muhammed" would benefit from this.
The video suggested that not only would the filmmakers, Josh and Rachel Tickell, accept oil money but that larger environmental organizations may as well, by adding a false voiceover. The voiceover claimed that the Tickells named environmental groups "When asked if environmental partners would be willing to be paid off":
VOICEOVER: And when asked if environmental partners would be willing to be paid off...
"AD EXECUTIVE" REPRESENTING "MUHAMMED": Which ones? Which ones?
REBECCA TICKELL: Environment California and CodeBlue.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Would that be something that --
JOSH TICKELL: And the NRDC.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Like they accept donations and things like that too?
REBECCA: Absolutely. They would work with us on this film.
But the Tickells were actually stating that they could reach out to these groups to promote their film, not that these groups would accept oil funding - the parts in bold were in the unedited tape starting at 3:28:30 but not in the edited version:
JOSH TICKELL: What's our market reach? We essentially work with six verticals. And these are things that we have developed for the better part of two decades. Grassroots? We have a number of organizations that actively activate our grassroots base. [...] Universities -- as I said, we do a lot of work with universities. That builds credibility, it also allows you to do a back and forth when you're taking people from the university, putting them in the film, and then you're screening it. That university becomes part of your prestige of the film -- oh we have an MIT professor, oh we have this professor, we have that professor. NGOs --
REBECCA TICKELL (interrupting): Which these two organizations, their main focus is anti-fracking.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Which ones? Which ones?
REBECCA TICKELL: Environment California and CodeBlue.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Would that be something that --
JOSH TICKELL: And the NRDC.
"AD EXECUTIVE": Like they accept donations and things like that too? I want my client to --
REBECCA: Absolutely. They would work with us on this film. They would make sure that all of their members saw the film. They would speak at the screenings, they would send out email blasts.
Kate Kiely, a spokeswoman for The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement to Media Matters that "NRDC actually has very strict rules about donations. We have a hard and fast policy not to accept money from any fossil fuel industries. Nor do we accept money to advocate for projects. Our advocacy is always based on strong science, law and policy." When asked whether the organization had "ever accepted funding from foreign oil interests" or if they had any part in the upcoming film FRACKED, Kiely wrote that the answer to both was "a resounding 'NO.'"
Most environmental organizations and activists do not accept funding from special interests that contradict their values. As the Tickells stated during O'Keefe's video, public knowledge that they had agreed to accept Middle Eastern oil money would damage their credibility among environmentalists.
However, according to O'Keefe, his deceptive editing job has already convinced a Senate committee to investigate:
Marlo Lewis, senior fellow of the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, argued that moving regions that will be affected by sea level rise is a better idea than taking efforts to mitigate climate change.
During the May 20 episode of NPR's On Point, Lewis was hosted alongside two climate experts to discuss the recent findings that the collapse of a West Antarctic ice sheet "appears unstoppable," and will cause global sea levels to rise of ten feet or higher in the next 200 to 1,000 years. Lewis dismissed taking action to reduce our carbon emissions, saying we could simply adapt to the effects of climate change.
Host Tom Ashbrook challenged him, saying, "So you're saying move New York, move Miami, move Southern Florida, move Boston?" Lewis responded, "Yeah." His reasoning: "The built environment from the studies I've seen, most building stock turns over in about 50 years. And so the markets adapt to this sort of phenomenon anyway."
Lewis' argument doesn't make much economic sense. The flood damages from just five U.S. cities will cost nearly $8 billion per year by 2050, according to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change -- and this is before the 10 feet of sea level rise is expected. According to the study, taking adaptive action in coastal cities at risk could cost up to $50 billion per year globally -- much more expensive than simply preventing the worst damage from happening in the first place.
Lewis is listed as one of the National Journal's energy experts and contributes to FoxNews.com, National Review Online, and Forbes.com. Lewis has used his media platform to defend Fox News and the Wall Street Journal for their use of false balance in reporting on climate science.
These readers may be interested to know of Lewis' fossil fuel funding, as Ashbrook disclosed for NPR listeners:
ASHBROOK: What are your motivations here? We've got a lot of fossil fuel money in your organization. Does that mean you're speaking up to defend their interests? And how do we have confidence that you're not?
LEWIS: Well, Tom, I kind of make it a policy not to respond to ad hominem arguments.
ASHBROOK: Ad hominem? I mean I'm just looking at your funders. Isn't that fair?
LEWIS: I think, you know, if you can ever find an instance in which I've changed any position I've ever taken at any time in my professional life because of a contribution to an organization that I've worked for, I'll pay you a thousand dollars. So let's drop that subject.
ASHBROOK: I don't think it's ad hominem, Mr. Lewis, it's just an honest question. A tax on carbon would be tough for ExxonMobil and Texaco.
Listen to the entire 45-minute podcast below.
Image at the top from Flickr user stacyflower with a Creative Commons license.
Ohio may soon become the first state to freeze its clean energy mandates after a relentless effort from utilities. But the state's major newspapers continue to overlook that the legislators behind the bill are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council -- an organization that connects corporations, including fossil fuel interests, to legislators -- despite repeatedly quoting the organization's members.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review criticized the renewal of federal tax credits for wind energy, claiming the credits "would blatantly waste taxpayer dollars on a manifestly unsustainable industry that's wholly dependent on government subsidies." However, other energy industries also receive billions of dollars in federal subsidies and tax breaks to keep them competitive, which the editorial did not mention.
In a May 13 editorial the Tribune-Review noted that the Senate Finance Committee recently approved a two-year renewal for wind energy projects, slated to cost $13 billion over 10 years. It called the renewal a "waste" of taxpayer dollars and advocated for "more reliable coal and nuclear plants" to meet electricity demand:
The last renewal, for 2013, allowed tax credits for projects under construction. The credits previously applied only to finished projects. American Wind Energy Association figures show installations rose sharply as 2012 ended and spiked again in 2013's fourth quarter as the industry took advantage of that change. It all prompted Erika Johnsen to write for the website Hot Air: "Could the wind industry's utter dependence on ... taxpayer help ... be any more apparent?"
There are better uses for taxpayer dollars than subsidizing wind energy, which "undercuts" more reliable coal and nuclear plants that are critical for meeting electricity demand, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., writes in The Wall Street Journal.
The example provided in the editorial of the spiking number of wind installations shows an industry attempting to increase production in a climate of uncertainty, something the fossil fuel industry does not have to contend with. As DBL Investors pointed out in a 2011 paper on the differences in subsidies different energy sources receive, unlike many other energy incentives, specifically for the oil and gas industry, which are permanently in the tax code, wind energy support has been allowed to expire several times since the creation of wind's primary incentive in 1992:
Some energy incentives, like the depletion allowance for oil and gas, are permanent in the tax code. Wind energy's primary incentive, the PTC, has been allowed to expire multiple times since its creation in 1992, and has been consistently reinstated for only one or two year terms.
Due to the series of shorter-term, 1-to-2-year PTC extensions, growing demand for wind power has been compressed into tight and frenzied windows of development. This has led to boom and bust cycles in renewable energy development, under-investment in manufacturing capacity in the U.S., and variable in equipment and supply costs. Recent work at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab suggests that this boom-and-bust cycle has made the PTC less effective in stimulating low-cost wind development than might be the case if a longer term and more stable policy were established.
Vox.com provided a misleading take of the Keystone XL pipeline in a short video explainer. The video for former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein's new venture was sponsored by General Electric, which has publicly supported the tar sands pipeline.
The visually appealing "Vox Explains" video gives a two-minute overview of the Keystone XL, but provides a misleading view of the number of jobs the pipeline would create. While the voiceover states that building the pipeline would "create thousands of temporary construction jobs," the number on the screen shows 42,000 temporary jobs, suggesting that all 42,000 jobs will be in construction. But the State Department report actually projects only 3,900 temporary construction jobs if construction took one year or 1,950 jobs if construction took two years. The 42,000 figure includes tens of thousands of indirect jobs in everything from food service to finance that the State Department estimates will be supported by Keystone XL's construction. The State Department estimates an outcome of only 35 permanent jobs would result from construction of the pipeline.
The video shows how new media can mislead in ways that newspapers never could. In the Keystone XL video, both the voiceover and the text were technically accurate. However, the combination of the two resulted in a misleading impression.
In response to criticism, the narrator of the video, Brad Plumer, tweeted that pointing out the much lower number of construction jobs was a "fair point" and that he could "break down that more precisely." Plumer left The Washington Post's WonkBlog to join Vox, and is generally excellent at explaining everything from global warming to air pollution.
The video also repeats the State Department's claim that the Keystone XL won't greatly impact climate change because "most of the oil would just get shipped by rail anyway," offering only that "green groups are disputing that analysis" as a rebuttal. But it's not just green groups -- reports from Reuters (largely ignored by the media) have found that the State Department's projections on rail transport were way off, undermining the Department's climate change claims. And as the number of disastrous train accidents rises, tougher regulations may increase the cost of moving oil by rail, making it even less attractive as an alternative. The claim that Keystone XL will not worsen climate change is becoming all the more dubious.
Strangely, this video has been cited by conservative news site Washington Free Beacon as an example of how GE's corporate sponsorship of Vox.com, including many of the "Vox Explains" videos, may be advancing the priorities of the Democratic Party. However, GE actually signed a letter in 2013 urging President Obama to approve the Keystone XL.