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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Power Breakfast: Discussion of the Martian Invasion and the Price of Gas

Power Breakfast: Discussion of the Martian Invasion and the Price of Gas

Thursday, 10 March 2011 05:37

WAMU, one of the NPR affiliates in Washington, DC, has a segment during Morning Edition called "Power Breakfast" which discusses issues being debated in Congress. This segment is often embarrassing for the amount of misinformation that it can pass along in just a few minutes.

This morning was one such occasion. It began with a comment by Texas Senator Kay Baily Hutchison, complaining about the price of gas and the cost of filling up her pick-up truck. Ms. Hutchinson then said that part of the answer to high gas prices was increased drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and then talked about a bill that she is co-sponsoring with Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu which would allow for some additional drilling.

While the segment did give a short sound bite to an opponent of drilling, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, it would have been appropriate to ridicule Ms. Hutchison's comment, since there is no plausible story in which her bill would have any visible impact on the price of filling up her pick-up.

The amount of additional oil that can be drilled from the Gulf is only around 0.2 percent of world supply. It would take roughly 10 years to get up to this level of production. Using normal elasticity assumptions, this would imply a reduction in the price of oil of around 0.5 percent. That would mean that if we completely opened the Gulf for drilling, it would save Ms. Hutchison about 30 cents off the cost of filling her pick-up in 2021. Of course the bill she has proposed would have considerably less effect. 

If politicians can say ridiculous things to advance their political agenda, and the media do not point out that their comments are ridiculous, then they will have incentive to say ridiculous things. This makes for an ill-informed nonsensical debate on public policy issues. The media bear much of the blame for this since it can be expected that politicians will do whatever advances their political career. It is the media's job to hold them accountable.

Comments (7)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, March 10, 2011 7:23
Diminishing returns at the margin is a neoclassical myth cooked up by socialist economists like Baker who mock the enormous potential of adding value to the unemployed space in patriotic free market pick-up trucks by filling them up with unsubsidized ethanol grown by Big Agriculture along with more drilling in the Gulf by Big Oil as they drive on public roads for a total economic cost of $15/gallon not including wars.
the shell game behind "Power Breakfast"
written by Michael Radosevich, March 10, 2011 8:03
I also have been dismayed at the juvenile, often inane "reporting" aired by Power Breakfast, a "Capital News Connection" production. Last fall the truth came out about the program.

Power Breakfast and Capital News Connection are a company created by the spouse of one WAMU official and a relative of another WAMU official. Distribution of the program was sold to NPR outlets throughout the country, with a big boost to marketing in using quotes from WAMU's news director that the program was "essential" etc.

Once the news broke, WAMU issued the standard mea culpas, but did nothing to discipline the WAMU officials or the news directors. In essence, WAMU officials used their positions to create, promote, and distribute for profit a program that isn't worth a plugged nickel.
written by skeptonomist, March 10, 2011 8:17
The story of oil reserves is that as one major field gave out another was found. The rationale for allowing additional drilling is that a new major field or extensions to existing ones may be found. Those predicting peak oil have been wrong up to now but of course the ratio of exploratory wells drilled to new discoveries has gone up over time. The discussion over whether to allow drilling should be concerned with the probability of significant new discoveries, not the impact of exploiting known fields, which as Dean says would not be significant. The cost of spills and other disasters should also be factored in.
lease utilization
written by Sideshow Bill, March 10, 2011 9:05
The other question not addressed, what portion of leases are not being used now?
written by jamzo, March 10, 2011 10:43
yea! kay baily hutchinson drives a pick-up truck!

and she fills the gas tank herself!
People should have learned by now that
written by S.D. Jeffries, March 10, 2011 12:47
anytime a politician from Texas opens his/her mouth, the listener is very likely to get a dose of disingenuousness, blather or bullshit. And any media outlet that treats their prescriptions as serious suggestions should be considered either corrupted or illegitimate.
Are the media to blame more than the politicians?
written by Justine Sharps, March 10, 2011 6:03
"The media bear much of the blame for this since it can be expected that politicians will do whatever advances their political career. It is the media's job to hold them accountable."

In some kind "ideal" sense of terms "media" & "job", it is the media's job to hold politicians accountable. But media - at least mainstream media (which is what Mr Baker mostly focuses on) - is dominated, if not completely owned, by corporations - actually the same corporations that dominate the careers of most influential politicians. And, though NPR is at least nominally independent of such influences (to the extent that it is "public"), it too is heavily influenced by such forces (as Mr Baker's commentaries have often suggested).

So if politician's are exonerated or excused to the extent to which "it can be expected" that they will serve their own interests (not those of the public", couldn't the said be said of mainstream media? After all, it can be expected that media that are dominated by corporate interests will *not* hold accountable politicians who are subservient to corporate interests.

Perhaps *we* the public are to blame for tolerating the media & the politicians.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.