NYT's John Broder Provides Obama Political Cover Over High Gas Prices

May 2nd, 2011 4:33 PM

New York Times environmental reporter John Broder, who writes like a firm believer in human-induced global warming, provided a little political cover for Obama in his front-page story Saturday on rising gas prices, "Gas Cost Spurs Fight Over End Of a Tax Break."

The problem is more than perception. As Julia Seymour of the Business and Media Institute reported, on April 25 the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline hit $3.86, less than 25 cents away from the record high price of gasoline set in July 2008.

Broder wrote:

Congress returns next week to a flaring brawl over oil industry profits and tax breaks, with both parties hoping to capitalize on growing public ire at high gasoline prices.

"When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right," President Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday. But in the Republican response, Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma countered: "For more than two years, his administration has knowingly increased energy prices by choking off new sources of traditional American energy and smothering our economy in new energy regulations.

The first argument related by Broder shrugged off the problem, saying the rise in gas prices was simply a matter of supply and demand.

"Every time Americans have to shell out $60 or $80 to fill their tanks, they mutter under their breaths about government and it puts pressure on Congress and the White House to do something," said Byron L. Dorgan, the former Democratic senator from North Dakota who is now co-chairman of an energy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. "But it’s just howling at the moon. The basic laws of supply and demand haven’t changed."

House Speaker John Boehner unwittingly gave the Democrats a political opening to pile on the oil companies by saying in an interview with ABC News last week that oil companies should "pay their fair share in taxes" and that Congress ought to reconsider some of the tax incentives they enjoy. He has since walked away from those remarks and said that raising any taxes would choke off the economic recovery and lead to higher prices of gasoline and other goods.

The Times wasn’t nearly so sanguine about the free market when Bush was being attacked by Democrats over gas prices.

Elisabeth Bumiller marked Bush’s commemoration of Earth Day on April 22, 2006 with this lead sentence: "President Bush spent an Earth Day marked by record-high gas prices promoting his support for hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars, but Democrats said that the vehicles were years away from reality and that the president needed to do more to relieve sticker shock at the pump."

Broder used "near-record quarterly profits" by oil companies as additional political cover for Obama.

His comments came as lawmakers from both parties were home on recess, hearing a torrent of constituent complaints about the high cost of gasoline at the same time major oil companies were reporting near-record quarterly profits. Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, said it earned $10.7 billion in the first three months of the year, and other companies reported similarly robust earnings.

Broder didn’t add that Exxon also paid $26.2 billion worldwide in taxes the first quarter of 2011. Dr. Mark J. Perry also pointed out at Benzinga that "The 6.1% average profit margin for Exxon's industry ‘Major Integrated Oil and Gas’ ranks #112 among all industries for the most recent quarter, so if Obama wants to target 'excessive' corporate profits, there are many other industries much more profitable than the oil and gas industry."

Broder also sounded a dismissive note about Republican ideas:

But it has little chance of even coming to a vote in the Republican-run House, where Speaker Boehner is orchestrating a fresh chorus of "drill, baby, drill" with a series of votes on bills to allow new oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia.