Fox News anchors John Roberts and Neil Cavuto questioned why President Joe Biden warned oil companies against price gouging after Hurricane Ian hit Florida, wrongly asserting that oil production was unaffected and that there is no history of such predatory conduct.
While the full extent of the devastation in western Florida from Hurricane Ian is still being calculated, Gov. Ron DeSantis called it a “500-year flooding event” from the huge storm surge and Biden expressed concern of “substantial loss of life” from the storm.
Roberts strayed from Fox’s recent pattern of taking advantage of this devastating hurricane to undermine the scientific consensus of climate change, instead defending giant corporations against the president’s warning to “not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people.” Those oil companies have recently enjoyed “record profits” amid multiple global crises and the recovery from the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In defending the oil companies, Roberts falsely claimed that oil production in the region was unaffected by the hurricane in Florida and expressed doubt that there had “ever been a case” when the oil industry had used hurricanes to price-gouge customers.
Cavuto went even further in emphatically denying that the oil industry had ever engaged in such disreputable conduct.
In fact, Reuters had reported two days ago that “about 11% of oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico was shut” as the hurricane “forced oil companies to evacuate workers and the storm took aim at Florida.” The day before, Reuters reported that major oil companies BP and Chevron “said they have shut-in production at offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico,” totaling just under half a million barrels per day of lost oil production.
Furthermore, there is evidence that the oil industry has used a hurricane to price-gouge before. A 2006 investigation by the Federal Trade Commission found that there “was evidence of price gouging” by 15 oil firms, including seven refiners, following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. From the report (emphasis added):
As directed by Section 632, the Commission also examined gasoline prices after the hurricanes to search for any instances of price gouging as defined by that legislation. In its examination of price-gouging evidence, the report analyzed financial data for 30 refiners, 23 wholesalers, and 24 single-location retailers. The report found that 15 of these firms – seven refiners, two wholesalers and six retailers – had higher average gasoline prices in September 2005 compared to August, and that these higher prices were not substantially attributable to either higher costs or to national or international market trends. Accordingly, there was evidence of price gouging, as defined by Section 632, for these firms. Additional analyses, however, showed that other factors, such as regional or local market trends, appeared to explain the pricing of these firms in nearly all cases.