Running out of Energy

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Campaign Desk today again takes up the question of gasoline prices, politics and puffery. Simply put, here’s our plea: Could somebody — please — put a cork in the whining and do some original thinking?

News articles about gasoline prices in the week preceding Memorial Day are about as original as Black Friday Christmas shopping stories. Basically, type in the current pump price, find a couple of talking heads at the local Exxon, call the AAA, and you’re on page one. Add a presidential campaign in the equation, with all its opportunities for partisan finger-pointing, and this old chestnut turns into Smarty Jones.

Energy policy is one of those subjects that affects everybody but interests almost no one (including the denizens of Washington, DC) — until it triggers an inconvenience. Then everybody gets into the act. Until, of course, the story evaporates as prices drop.

Who can blame politicians for making a big issue out of gasoline prices if it guarantees them 30 seconds on network news or lots of ink in a battleground region?

Voters can be forgiven for not remembering the last, say, five or ten energy crises, and all the ill-conceived “solutions” put forth by Republicans and Democrats that ultimately went nowhere. But the media doesn’t get the same pass. Journalists are getting paid to put the candidates’ proposals and accusations in context: to call a retread exactly that — a retread. Does anybody seriously think dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is going to make life easier for Hummer owners?

The media has an obligation to do more than just spin its wheels on this story. Then again, come July Fourth, and everybody heads out to the beach, nobody will even remember this weekend’s “crisis.”

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.