COMMENTS: Not Very Energetic

Bits and pieces of the federal government made a push to make major news but none quite pulled it off. The Pentagon issued its quarterly report on progress in Iraq--but only NBC had a reporter mention it. The Federal Reserve Board unveiled banking regulations to prevent a repeat of the subprime mortgage fiasco--but none of the networks led with it. Congress finally passed energy legislation--but CBS did not cover it. ABC led with a follow-up on last week's icestorm in Oklahoma. CBS concentrated on the Presidential campaign. Only NBC followed a federal lead, kicking off with the energy bill, which qualified as a lackluster Story of the Day, lackluster because of CBS' disdain.

Both ABC's Lisa Stark and NBC's Anne Thompson zeroed in on the automobile fuel efficiency provision of the omnibus energy bill as its key provision. Both reported that average fuel efficiency of cars and trucks will have to increase to 35 mpg by 2020. Thompson called that a 40% increase; Stark calculated a cut in gasoline consumption of 10%. But then Stark claimed that this 10% reduction "will save consumers as much as $1,000 a year at the pump," implying that the average motorist spends $10,000 annually on gasoline today.

These numbers make no sense.

NBC's Thompson reeled off some of the bill's other provisions: a required increase in ethanol production--"from switch grass and wood chips, non-food sources"--and increased efficiency in household appliances such as lightbulbs, dishwashers, refrigerators and clothes washers. Under a threat of veto by President George Bush, utilities will not be required to produce 15% of their electricity "from renewable sources such as wind and solar" and Big Oil will not lose $13bn in federal subsidies in the form of corporate tax breaks.

By the way, ABC's lead was from Barbara Pinto (no link) in Oklahoma City, where energy conservation is breaking all records. It is now nine days since that icestorm brought down electricity powerlines yet 50,000 homes and businesses "are still in the dark."


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