ABC's own report debunked Vargas's claim that Bush "unveil[ed] an ambitious plan to lower the cost of oil and gas"April 27, 2006 3:46 PM EDT ››› BEN FISHEL
On the April 25 edition of ABC's World News Tonight, co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas reported that President Bush "unveil[ed] an ambitious plan to lower the cost of oil and gas." Yet later in the same broadcast, ABC News chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz reported that the Bush administration "acknowledges that this plan will likely not bring down the price of gas anytime soon." Raddatz added that the administration felt obligated to address energy concerns because "they had to do something with the midterm elections fast approaching."
Later in the broadcast, after Raddatz's report, ABC News reporter Betsy Stark said that Bush's plan to temporarily suspend environmental regulations on oil refineries could "impact [gas] prices almost immediately." As evidence, Stark cited Fadel Gheit, senior vice president of oil and research at Oppenheimer & Co., who said: "I would say it will bring gasoline prices substantially [lower] within, say, two or three weeks. I would say by 20 cents at least, or even more." However, MSNBC.com reported on April 25 that the temporary suspension of environmental regulations would not have a significant effect on gas prices because most summer-blend gasoline has already been produced. Gheit's comments were also contradicted by reporting from CBS' Jim Axelrod on the April 25 edition of the CBS Evening News. Axelrod reported that Bush's plan to lift environmental regulations would not significantly affect gas prices. Axelrod stated: "The president also wants certain environmental regulations to be suspended so that more gas can be used by more states interchangeably. Again, the idea is to pump up the supply. A few more drops added to the barrel, maybe, but, really, nothing is going to be -- to bring prices down any time soon."
Additionally, in an April 26 Washington Post article, staff writers Jim VandeHei and Steven Mufson reported that according to "Bush's top economist, Al Hubbard, the easing of environmental regulations is more about making sure some stations do not run out of gasoline than lowering prices." Even Bush stated in an April 25 speech before the Renewable Fuels Association that "energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that's going to be a continued strain on the American people."
From the April 25 edition of ABC's World News Tonight:
VARGAS: Pain relief. President Bush unveils an ambitious plan to lower the cost of oil and gas. Tonight, what impact will it have on the price at the pump?
RADDATZ: With limited influence over those countries, Mr. Bush today outlined measures the U.S. can take to ease the price of oil, including ordering a halt to deposits to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the nation's 685-million-barrel emergency supply.
BUSH [video clip]: By deferring deposits until the fall, we'll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps.
RADDATZ: The president is also asking federal agencies to investigate possible price gouging.
BUSH: Americans understand, by and large, that the price of crude oil is going up and that the prices are going up. But what they don't want and will not accept is, is manipulation of the market.
RADDATZ: Mr. Bush is also directing the EPA to ease environmental regulations on fuel requirements, which, in some parts of the country, are forcing consumers to buy expensive gas and causing shortages. In addition, the president has asked Congress to roll back $2 billion in tax breaks for oil companies. These are measures that Democrats and conservationists have been urging the president to take for a long time. And today, some were quick to point that out.
U.S. REP. ED MARKEY (D-MA) [video clip]: Every day, because President Bush and the Republican leadership have been asleep as this danger has crept up on the American consumer. And now, it's the consumer and our country which is paying the price.
RADDATZ: The administration acknowledges that this plan will likely not bring down the price of gas anytime soon. But, Elizabeth, they feel they had to do something with midterm elections fast approaching.
STARK: What could impact prices almost immediately is a suspension of environmental regulations. The reality here is that waiving the elaborate rules on summertime blends will likely push supplies up and prices down.
GHEIT: I would say it will bring gasoline prices substantially [lower] within, say, two or three weeks. I would say by 20 cents at least, or even more.
STARK: Over the long term, the president's proposal to develop alternative fuels, including hydrogen power and ethanol, could provide relief at the pump. And so could his plan to increase domestic supplies. But the reality is, any relief from either of those proposals is probably years away.
GHEIT: It is not going to have any impact on gasoline prices next year, or for the next five or even 10 years.
From the April 25 edition of the CBS Evening News:
AXELROD: Mr. Bush's proposals include calling for investigations into price gouging, expanding tax credits for buying hybrids, reducing tax breaks for big oil companies swimming in cash. But none do much to change supply or demand in the near future. For instance, take the plan to suspend deposits into the strategic oil reserve.
BUSH [video clip]: So by deferring deposits until the fall, we'll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps.
AXELROD: Little is right. Deferring the deposits for a month would put an additional 2.1 million barrels of crude on the market, a drop in the bucket. The U.S. uses 20 million barrels a day. Asked over and over just how much the Bush proposals would lower prices by summer vacation time, all the White House could do was sidestep.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SCOTT McCLELLAN: It's not something that we got into overnight; it's not something we're going to get out of overnight.
AXELROD: The president also wants certain environmental regulations to be suspended so that more gas can be used by more states interchangeably. Again, the idea is to pump up the supply. A few more drops added to the barrel, maybe, but, really, nothing is going to be -- to bring prices down any time soon, [fill-in anchor] Russ [Mitchell].
From the April 26 Washington Post:
Amid growing Republican unrest about the politics of $3-plus gasoline, Bush told the Renewable Fuels Association that he will take the unusual step of suspending shipments to the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supply and help hold down oil prices. The president also said he will temporarily ease environmental regulations that require the use of cleaner-burning fuel additives to cut down on summertime pollution.
Still, according to industry experts and administration officials, Bush's efforts at best are likely to shave a few cents per gallon off the cost of gasoline.
The tax breaks for hybrid vehicles would cover only a sliver of new-car sales for the rest of the year, and according to Bush's top economist, Al Hubbard, the easing of environmental regulations is more about making sure some stations do not run out of gasoline than lowering prices.
In his speech on Tuesday, Bush called on the Environmental Protection Agency to grant waivers to clean air requirements if necessary to ease bottlenecks. The EPA said it will consider fuel waivers on a case-by-case basis if gasoline supply problems arise, which could result in price spikes or shortages of cleaner summer-blend gasoline.
Refiners, meanwhile, said that most of the change to summer-blend gasoline already has been completed and waivers may not be needed -- and might even be counterproductive in some cases.
"You're going to have to be careful that you're not upsetting a plan that already is in the last stage of implementation," said Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical Refiners Association.