Gas prices and oil prices have been slipping lately, just not at the same rate. And that's a "real scandal" to some liberal, self-styled consumer advocates like Judy Dugan of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights. That's all well and good, of course, except when the media parrot the complaint and don't explain the group's biases.
That's exactly what we found from USA Today's front page treatment of sliding oil prices in its January 16 edition.
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“Gas prices are down 4% this year,” but oil prices have dropped by more than 13 percent, noted the USA Today reporter. While Hagenbaugh explained that most gas stations actually “lost money in November and December” from stiff competition, she ended her story with a hint of conspiracy theory as she found an activist suspicious of the difference in the price drops.
“Judy Dugan of The Foundation for Taxpayer & ConsumerRights [FTCR] calls the small drop in gasoline costs ‘a real scandal’ and saysoil companies are to blame,” wrote Hagenbaugh. “We have no trust at all in the oil companies’ excuses for gasoline pricing,” the reporter quoted Dugan at the close of her article.
Yet Hagenbaugh didn’t explain why Dugan’s group has no faith in the oil companies: her organization is a persistent liberal critic of the industry. What’s more, in July 2006, Dugan called on California voters to approve a “profit-based levy on companies that extract oil in California,” in other words a tax, to “support vigorous research and development of clean alternative fuels and vehicles.”
Despite evidence to the contrary, FTCR continued its conspiratorial rhetoric later in the year as gas prices cooled down and the election season heated up. Shortly before the November elections, Dugan suggested that oil companies were manipulating the drop in gas prices to benefit political allies at the polls.
“Federal statistics indeed show that in the last three election cycles, oil companies have taken lower refining margins compared to the previous non-election year, if not lower prices overall. The pattern may well be deliberate,” she insisted in an Oct. 26, 2006, press release.