Right-wing media have continued to attack energy standards that will phase out inefficient light bulbs by 2012, claiming the bill will "ban" incandescent light bulbs and force consumers to instead purchase either $50 light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs or "dangerous" compact florescent lights (CFL). In fact, the bill only bans inefficient incandescent light bulbs, and efficient bulbs -- whose prices vary considerably depending on the type of bulb and are also projected to drop -- will save consumers money in the long run; experts have also said that concerns over mercury in CFL bulbs are overstated.
In a May 17 column, The Washington Times' Emily Miller wrote that Senate Democrats' attempt to end tax breaks for oil companies "would only increase prices at the pump this summer." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, energy experts have explained that cutting the tax incentives would have little to no effect on prices at the pump. Further, as Miller herself even acknowledged, a recent Congressional Research Service report stated that eliminating the tax breaks would have a negligible impact on gas prices.
From Miller's column:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to raise taxes on U.S. oil companies Tuesday night would not have lowered the $4 price tag on a gallon of gasoline. The political stunt fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage, but Mr. Reid vowed to bring back the attack on "big oil" before any final deal on next year's budget or the debt ceiling could be reached.
At a press conference just prior to the vote, Mr. Reid read notes from a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that concluded the Democratic bill would not raise gas prices. I asked Mr. Reid if his legislation would lower the price at the pump, and Mr. Reid said no: "I think that it's not going to have any effect on the price of gasoline."
Although Mr. Reid insists that raising taxes on oil producers would not increase the cost of gasoline, Republicans beg to differ. The Democratic bill "will raise the price of gasoline at the pump," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Increasing domestic production, keeping taxes low and cutting out bureaucracy is exactly what is needed to tackle high gas prices. Unfortunately, Democrats appear more interested in scoring political points than helping American families. Mr. Reid's continued fight to push through a $20 billion tax hike on oil companies would only increase prices at the pump this summer.
Conservative media have criticized legislative proposals to roll back tax breaks for the largest oil companies by pushing the notion that doing so would mean "the price of gasoline and oil is going to go up," as the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore put it.
The Washington Examiner also repeatedly asserted that the Congressional Research Service backed up their claim, pointing to a months-old CRS analysis of President Obama's proposed FY 2012 budget, which included provisions that are not in the current proposal.
However, energy experts contacted by Media Matters stated that cutting the tax incentives would have little to no effect on prices at the pump, given the scale of the world oil market. And now the Congressional Research Service itself has weighed in. The New York Times reports:
The nonpartisan research group predicted a negligible impact on the price of gasoline from eliminating a series of tax benefits. Responding to an inquiry from Senate Democrats, the service said that with the cost of oil over $100 per barrel, "prices are well in excess of costs and a small increase in taxes would be less likely to reduce oil output, and hence increase petroleum product (gasoline) prices."
In a review of the five specific tax changes being advocated by Democrats, the research service also said that tightening the tax code would make a very small dent in the huge revenues of the industry and that the price of oil hinges on many other larger considerations.
While the Senate Finance Committee hosted executives from five major oil companies to evaluate the necessity of certain tax breaks enjoyed by their industry, Fox took to defending the profits of these companies using a misleading comparison between industry profits and taxes placed on the gas that is sold to American consumers.
It began with the usual suspects, Fox Business' Stuart Varney and Andrew Napolitano. On his Fox Business show, Varney marveled at a statistic Napolitano cited which suggests that while oil companies only make 7 cents for every gallon of gas sold, the government collects a full 88 cents per gallon. Needless to say, Varney and Napolitano lamented the injustice of oil executives having to defend their comparatively meager profits while the government gets away with this egregious "gouging":
Napolitano claims that he's getting these statistics from a recent document published by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. However a search of the publications issued by the CBO in the past month shows no such calculation. Who did recently push these numbers? Why, none other than ExxonMobil.
From the May 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
Leading up to his May 12 Fox special report on energy, Fox Business host John Stossel appeared on several Fox programs to deride critics of the natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Stossel baselessly claimed that methane in drinking water "happens naturally" and "has nothing to do with fracking," when, in fact, there is overwhelming evidence that hydraulic fracturing can cause toxic chemicals to leak into groundwater, release radioactivity, and pollute the air.
In news reports on a House Republican proposal that would require the Obama administration to open new areas to offshore drilling, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse claimed that "97 percent of America's offshore oil remains off-limits." In fact, the areas already open to drilling contain the "vast majority" of estimated offshore oil resources, according to the Energy Information Administration.
From the May 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
From the May 11 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
Loading the player reg...
During an appearance on Fox News, radio host Ben Ferguson argued against Democratic proposals to roll back tax breaks for the largest oil companies by boldly declaring that ExxonMobil -- by far the most profitable corporation in the country -- doesn't actually make that much money. See, according to Ferguson, over 90 percent of the company's profits go to the U.S. government in the form of taxes:
FERGUSON: [Obama] should also stop making these oil companies into evil companies. I mean, look at the profits the other day of Exxon. They posted $11 billion in profits. They paid $10 billion of those dollars in profits went to taxes.
FERGUSON: There's a lot of companies out there that deserve tax breaks so that they operate and employ people in the United States of America. And if we're getting $10 billion out of $11 billion in profit from Exxon, which is the facts, and they're making about 3 cents on every gallon of gas right now, I think they deserve to do business here just like every other business so we keep Americans employed. [Fox News, America Live, 5/10/11]
This is highly misleading in a couple of ways. For one, Ferguson suggests ExxonMobil's tax payments come "out of" their $11 billion in reported earnings. But they don't. The reported earnings are after-tax figures.
And Ferguson is comparing apples to oranges when he claims that "we're getting $10 billion out of $11 billion in profit from Exxon." The "$11 billion in profit" is ExxonMobil's worldwide earnings for just the first three months of 2011. As for the $10 billion that Ferguson says ExxonMobil paid to the U.S. Treasury, it appears that he's been reading an ExxonMobil press release that states:
Last year, our total taxes and duties to the U.S. government topped $9.8 billion, which includes an income tax expense of $1.6 billion. [emphasis added]
So the $10 billion is what ExxonMobil says it paid in U.S. taxes in all of 2010, not the first quarter of 2011. And there's reason to be skeptical of this figure. As the Washington Post reported, this number includes $6.2 billion in gas taxes collected from its customers:
Conservative media claim that recent proposals to repeal tax breaks for the five largest oil companies will "make gasoline more expensive." However, energy experts say that cutting the tax incentives will have little to no effect on prices at the pump.
From the May 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
Loading the player reg...
In a May 5 op-ed in The Washington Examiner, David Limbaugh, right-wing pundit and brother of Rush Limbaugh, falsely claimed President Obama's "policies and actions are actually contributing to rocketing gas prices today." In fact, as Media Matters has repeatedly documented, energy experts have said it's "not credible" to blame Obama for the recent spike in gas prices. Limbaugh's op-ed also suggested that increasing U.S. domestic oil production would reduce gas prices; in fact, experts have agreed increased domestic drilling would not affect the global price of oil by more than a few cents over a few decades. Limbaugh also claims that Obama "does everything in his power to suppress domestic oil production" -- but in fact, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration, domestic oil production has been steadily declining since 1985.
From Limbaugh's op-ed (emphasis added):
Do you remember the terrible things the left was saying about President George W. Bush when gas prices soared under his watch? Yet President Obama, whose policies and actions are actually contributing to rocketing gas prices today, gets the usual mainstream media pass.
During Bush's term, gas prices went down 9 percent, adjusted for inflation. Yet, preposterously, he was excoriated for allegedly colluding with "big oil" to drive up prices. When prices spiked later in his term, he took proactive steps to increase our supply and reduce prices, and they worked. But Obama has taken action to impede conventional energy sources and shove us into alternative ones. Even so, liberals ignore any possible causal links.
Behind the smoke and mirrors of his rhetoric, it's hard not to conclude that Obama's on a mission to suppress or shut down the existing oil infrastructure in the United States in pursuit of his stated alternative priorities.
The Heritage Foundation's Rory Cooper reports that, as of February 2011, at least 103 permits were awaiting review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. And since February, the administration has issued on average only 1.3 permits a month, a 78 percent reduction in the monthly average according to the latest Gulf Permit Index.
Obama even reversed an earlier decision to open access to coastal waters for exploration, placing a seven-year ban on drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Oil production in the Gulf is expected to drop by 220 thousand barrels per day in 2011, which is going to cost the U.S. some $1.35 billion in revenues in 2011.
From the May 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media outlets have criticized President Obama's call to end certain tax breaks for oil companies, claiming that doing so will increase the price of gasoline. However energy experts contacted by Media Matters explain that cutting the tax incentives will have little to no effect on prices at the pump.