Gasbaggery on MSNBC

This morning, MSNBC has done at least two segments on the cost of gas in a small California town, using them to launch a discussion on high fuel prices nationwide.

“Gas prices. Some people in California are paying over five bucks at the pump. Can you believe it?” asked anchor Tamron Hall. “This is happening in Gorda, which is outside of San Francisco.”

“When you hear $5.40 in Gorda,” she asked analyst Vahan Janjigian, “who would have predicted this and what does it mean for the rest of the country?”

“Well, nobody has to pay $5.40 a gallon just because a gas station is charging that. There are plenty of other gas stations in the San Francisco area that are charging less,” replied Forbes analyst Vahan Janjigian. “That is clearly an outlier.“

If you look at a map, you’ll see that Gorda is 185-some driving miles south of the Golden Gate. It’s near San Francisco in the same way that Baltimore is “near” New York. And it’s smack dab in the middle of Big Sur, the rugged, virtually-unpopulated, single-roaded wilderness area that runs down the central California coast. That’s quite an “outlier.”

Yes, gas prices in Gorda are high, and yes, the price there is tied to the nationwide market price. But “Gorda” is little more than the one gas station in question, a fly-speck outpost that makes its bank off of tourists and RV’s driving the Pacific Coast Highway. The Gorda sticker shock has more to do with its status as a remote tourist-trap than with the cost of a barrel of oil. There’s no plague of $5.40 gas afflicting Bay Area suburbanites.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.