NY Times reporter ignored energy experts to repeat Bush line on oil imports

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

In a July 29 article, New York Times reporter Carl Hulse reported that supporters of the energy bill recently approved by the House of Representatives describe the bill as "a step toward reducing American dependence on foreign oil," but Hulse omitted the contrary view, held by energy analysts and even some conservative Republicans, that the bill won't reduce U.S. oil imports.

In a July 26 article headlined "Bill Wouldn't Wean U.S. Off Oil Imports, Analysts Say," The Washington Post reported that the Department of Energy projects that the percentage of U.S. oil obtained from abroad will increase from 58 percent to 68 percent by 2025, and that "[a]t best, analysts say, the energy legislation would slightly slow that rate of growth of dependence." The Post documented that the bill lacks what analysts such as Union of Concerned Scientists president Kevin Knobloch believe would have the "greatest impact on reducing U.S. oil demand and cutting imports: a requirement to increase fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and cars."

The Post also noted that even though "[President] Bush and GOP lawmakers have sold their energy policies as a means of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil," White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino admitted that "[t]he White House has not analyzed how the legislation would affect reliance on imports."

Similarly, in a July 28 article headlined "Energy Bill Won't Cut Oil Imports, Critics Say," the Los Angeles Times reported that despite Bush administration promises that the energy plan will make the U.S. "less reliant on foreign oil," energy experts said that it "would do little in the short term to boost the nation's energy independence." The report noted Petrie Parkman & Co. analyst Steve Enger's assessment that "[t]he energy bill is not going to make a meaningful difference in U.S. supplies," as well as Energy Security Analysis Inc. senior oil analyst Rick Mueller's belief that "[t]here's very little in the bill" to address the rising demand for oil in the United States.

In fact, even some conservative Republicans have acknowledged that the energy bill will not reduce America's dependence on foreign oil in the near future.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-TX), whom Hulse quoted in a July 27 article describing the energy legislation as a "darn good bill," nonetheless conceded in a July 29 USA Today report that "[s]hort term, you won't see much impact" on the share of U.S. oil that is imported. And Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation and an opponent of the bill, said that "[w]e'll be dependent on the global market for more than half our oil for as long as we're using oil, and the energy bill isn't going to change that," according to the Washington Post report. He added that the bill "would not do much" to increase domestic production.

In reports on July 26 and July 27, Hulse alluded to the view that the energy bill would not reduce imports, but attributed it to Democratic "critics" of the Bush administration plan rather than energy analysts or Republicans.

On July 29, Hulse wrote that "supporters" of the energy bill, including White House press secretary Scott McClellan and "Congressional leaders," agree that "the bill should lead to less reliance on oil imports." He cited only Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) as an example of a "Congressional leader," even though Dingell was quoted as saying only that it is "not a perfect bill" but is "a good beginning to develop an energy strategy for the 21st century." Hulse devoted only one sentence to critics' views of the plan but did not include its failure to address the dependence on foreign oil among their complaints.

From Hulse's July 29 New York Times article, headlined "House Passes Energy Bill, but Has Less Luck With Transportation Measure":

Supporters said that by encouraging growth in the renewable-fuels industry and raising domestic production of traditional sources like oil, gas and coal, the bill should lead to less reliance on oil imports.

"It is not a perfect bill," said Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and an influential party voice on the issue. "But it is a good beginning to develop an energy strategy for the 21st century. It is the best that can be constructed at this time."

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, acknowledged that the measure would have little immediate impact on high energy costs, saying "we didn't get into this overnight, and we're not going to get out of overnight."

But Mr. McClellan joined Congressional leaders in describing the bill as a step toward reducing American dependence on foreign oil.

"This legislation helped address the root causes of high energy prices," he said. "It will expand domestic production, it will increase conservation, and it will improve reliability of our electricity system."

Businesses interests also welcomed the passage of the energy bill. "It seems to balance pretty well the research and development and energy efficiency along with additional means of production," said William L. Kovacs, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Though the bill dodged the issue of fuel economy, Dan Brouillette, a Washington representative of the Ford Motor Company, said that new tax breaks for owners of hybrid cars should "accelerate the expansion of advanced-technology vehicles and to achieve the volumes needed to make them more affordable."

Critics said that the bill fell far short, citing its subsidies for profitable industries, exemptions from environmental laws and failure to address automotive fuel consumption or global warming.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Energy
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