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A Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of rising gasoline prices between Jan. 1 and Feb. 29 finds that news outlets often provided a shallow and shortsighted treatment of the issue. For instance, several outlets largely overlooked fuel economy standards—a key policy solution that mitigates U.S. vulnerability to price spikes while promoting increased U.S. drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, which would likely move gas prices by only a few cents, if at all. In addition, cable news outlets primarily hosted political figures rather than energy experts or economists to comment on gas prices. Fox News, which covered gas prices far more frequently than any other outlet, regularly blamed President Obama for the recent price increase, a claim in line with Republican strategy but not with the facts.
The following chart shows the total coverage of gas prices between Jan. 1 and Feb. 29:
TV News Buries Key Policy Addressing Gas Price Woes
Reducing Consumption Is Key To Mitigating Our Vulnerability To Price Spikes. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the cost of crude oil, which is set on the world market, determines 76 percent of the price of gasoline. Energy experts agree that the way to reduce our vulnerability to gas price spikes is to decrease our dependence on oil, regardless of where the oil comes from. [Media Matters, 2/23/12]
- Michael Levi, Council on Foreign Relations: "Since oil is traded on a global market, the effects of volatility are reflected in the price of every barrel of oil regardless of its origin. This problem can be addressed only by making the U.S. economy more resilient to oil price swings, which includes—most significantly—lowering total U.S. oil consumption."
- Economist Severin Borenstein: "To fix the problem, we just need to use less oil."
- Energy analyst Chris Nelder: "Increasing efficiency is going to be a far more productive policy tool than increasing supply."
- Moody's Chris Lafakis: Higher average fuel economy, "be it through electric vehicles or improved efficiency on conventional vehicles," lowers "the percentage of consumers' incomes that they spend on gasoline."
News Outlets Largely Overlooked Fuel Efficiency Policies. Only 2 percent of broadcast coverage, 4 percent of cable coverage and 13 percent of print coverage of gas prices mentioned fuel economy standards, which have been significantly raised by the Obama administration. Two of the 9 mentions of fuel economy standards on Fox were GOP candidates calling for their repeal. CBS and The Los Angeles Times did not mention fuel efficiency standards in their gas price coverage at all. Out of 69 print items on rising gas prices, only three made the point that reducing oil consumption is the best long-term solution. These figures include views expressed by those interviewed or quoted.
Nearly All TV Outlets Promoted Drilling More Often Than Fuel Efficiency. With the exception of NBC, every television network mentioned expanded drilling as a solution more often than fuel economy standards. Fox News promoted the narrative that more domestic oil production will lower gas prices in 45 percent of its coverage. These figures include guests' comments if they were not challenged by the anchor. Energy experts, including those who are politically conservative, have repeatedly debunked the idea that increasing U.S. production is an effective solution to high prices. In fact, even the American Petroleum Institute won't say that expanded drilling would hold down prices. An analysis by the Energy Information Administration estimated that the difference between a scenario in which the Atlantic, Pacific and Eastern/Central Gulf of Mexico are open to offshore drilling and a scenario in which they remain off-limits is 3 cents per gallon of gasoline in 2030. Such a small effect would be dwarfed by the impact of rising oil consumption in Asia, geopolitical conflicts or OPEC supply adjustments. [Media Matters, 2/23/12, 6/23/11, 5/12/11]
Cable News Falsely Presented Keystone XL As A Gas Price Remedy. Economists say that TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline would not noticeably lower gasoline prices. Even Ray Perryman, the economist hired by TransCanada said the effect would be only "around 3.5-4 cents per gallon" and not until the pipeline was "flowing reasonably close to capacity" in several years. He added that "a modest change of this nature will often be swamped by the day-to-day factors that impact market prices." Some analysts say the pipeline could actually raise prices in some parts of the country. But every cable news outlet promoted Keystone XL more often than fuel economy standards. In almost 40 percent of its coverage, Fox suggested that approving Keystone XL would help relieve rising gas prices. These figures include guests' comments if they were not challenged by the anchor. [Media Matters, 2/23/12]
Cable News Offers Political Figures Rather Than Energy Experts
Cable Networks Relied On Politicians To Explain Rising Gas Prices. In total, 63 percent of those interviewed or quoted on gas prices by cable outlets were political figures (including politicians, strategists, White House officials and campaign advisors), and only 13 percent were economists or oil industry experts. By contrast, 49 percent of those quoted by print outlets were economists or industry analysts and 35 percent were political figures. On the broadcast networks, 49 percent of those interviewed or quoted were consumers, 32 percent were political figures, and 17 percent were economists or industry analysts. The following chart breaks down the credentials of gas price commentators on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC:
Fox News Wrongly Blames Obama For High Gas Prices
Experts Say It's Simply Bad Economics To Blame Price Spike On The President. As countless experts and fact-checkers have noted, global factors largely determine the price of oil, not U.S. policy changes, let alone any actions President Obama has taken.
- Energy economist Severin Borenstein, a professor at U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business, explained: "Oil prices drive gasoline prices and current oil prices are high. But $125 per barrel oil today is no more the fault of President Obama than $147 oil was President Bush's fault in June 2008. There is very little the U.S. president can do to change oil prices over months or a few years. U.S. oil production was up 13 percent in 2011 over 2008, but still remains less than one-tenth of the world oil market." [U.S. News & World Report, 3/2/12]
- In a U.S. News & World Report column, Cato Institute fellows Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor wrote: "President Obama is no more responsible for production increases than other presidents were responsible for production declines. Unfortunately, presidents get blamed for world market changes that occur during their time in office ... but generally, they do not cause them." [U.S. News & World Report, 3/2/12]
- Tom Kloza, chief analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, told USA Today: "We'll continue to see plenty of blame attributed to both parties if we see prices go higher. But there is very little a president can do to impact gas or crude oil prices over the short term." [USA Today, 3/8/12]
Nevertheless, More Than Half Of Fox News Coverage Falsely Suggested Obama Is Responsible. Our results show that Fox News covered gas prices far more often than other news outlets—more than CNN and MSNBC combined. Fifty-five percent of Fox News coverage suggested that President Obama is to blame for rising gas prices. In total, Fox blamed Obama 144 times in two months—more than three times as much as all other news outlets combined. These figures include guest quotes if they were not challenged by the anchor or author.
Fox Narrative Mirrors GOP Campaign Strategy. The New York Times reported in February that Republicans see rising gas prices as an opportunity to attack President Obama on the economy:
In a closed-door meeting last week, Speaker John A. Boehner instructed fellow Republicans to embrace the gas-pump anger they find among their constituents when they return to their districts for the Presidents' Day recess.
"This debate is a debate we want to have," Mr. Boehner told his conference on Wednesday, according to a Republican aide who was present.
And talking points from the Republican National Committee that go out to conservative commentators every Friday often include rising gas prices among the "Top Line Messaging" for the week. A recent "Pundit Prep" document cited the national debt, unemployment and the price of gas as the three best ways to define the "Obama economy." [New York Times, 2/18/12]
This report analyzes print and television coverage of U.S. gasoline prices between January 1, 2012 and February 29, 2012. Our analysis includes the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC and CBS), the major cable networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC), and five major print outlets (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal).
For print outlets and CNN transcripts, our results are based on a Nexis search for "(gas w/3 price!) or gasoline". For the Wall Street Journal, which is not available in Nexis, we searched Factiva for "(gas near3 price!) or gasoline". For the Fox News and MSNBC shows not available in Nexis, we relied on an internal television archive. Our analysis includes any article or segment devoted to gas prices, as well as any substantial mention (more than one paragraph of an article or news transcript.)
For more information, click here.
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The depths of the oceans are heating up more slowly than the surface and the air, but that will undergo a dramatic shift in the second half of the century, according to a new study. Researchers expect the rate of climate change in the deep parts of the oceans could accelerate to seven times their current rate after 2050, as The Guardian reported.
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By Joni Sweet
Should you skip your annual checkup? The answer would have been a resounding "no" if you asked most doctors before the pandemic.
But with the risk of COVID-19, the answer isn't so clear anymore.
Are States Allowing Preventive Care Visits?<p>First things first: If you're experiencing a medical emergency, don't delay treatment.</p><p>While there's the potential that you could be <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/portal/index.html" target="_blank">exposed to infections at the emergency room</a>, the health risks of avoiding urgent medical care could be far more severe.</p><p>Hospitals have also implemented precautionary measures, like distributing masks to patients, that help cut down the risk of viral exposure.</p><p>Now that that's out of the way, is it possible to start catching up on routine healthcare appointments, like physicals and dental cleanings?</p><p>"Different places are in different stages of opening up," said <a href="https://www.methodisthealth.org/doctors/arvind-ankireddypalli/" target="_blank">Dr. Arvind Ankireddypalli</a>, primary care physician and geriatrician at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. "Preventative services might not even be available in some communities, [and in others] medical appointments may be on a case-by-case basis."</p>
Is it Safe to Go to the Doctor?<p>If your state is open (or will end its lockdown soon), you may be able to start booking preventive care appointments, like Pap smears, cancer screenings, checkups, and dental cleanings.</p><p>But is it worth the risk of possible exposure to the new coronavirus?</p><p>Opinions vary among healthcare providers and the conditions of their patients, as well as the infection rate in their communities and availability of personal protective equipment.</p><p><a href="https://www.lenhorovitz.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Len Horovitz</a>, internist, pulmonary specialist, and director of Carnegie Medical, recommends that patients avoid delaying their annual physical or other types of preventive care.</p><p>"You will encounter problems that are best seen earlier rather than later," he said. "It is possible to provide a safe environment for a patient in the doctor's office. There's no reason for people to put off an annual exam; these are important appointments that help keep problems from getting out of control."</p><p>In an effort to curb the spread of infection, Horovitz has been following a strict set of procedures at his office, including allowing just one patient in at a time, requiring patients to wear masks and gloves, and disinfecting the examination room between every patient.</p><p>Other physicians, like Ankireddypalli, conduct a risk-benefit analysis for every patient before agreeing to see them in person.</p><p>"It is probably not appropriate to keep delaying visits for high-risk patients, like older adults or people with chronic conditions," he explained.</p>
Role of Telehealth Visits<p>Telemedicine visits, where doctors connect with patients via phone or video chat, can be an option if in-person appointments are risky or prohibited.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/downloads/medicaid-chip-telehealth-toolkit.pdf" target="_blank">Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services</a> and some private insurance companies have expanded coverage for telehealth services during the pandemic. As a result, some practices have seen the <a href="https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/during-pandemic-telehealth-visits-soar-10-week-300-group-practice" target="_blank">use of telemedicine services soar</a> over the last few months.</p><p>"Telemedicine is a way that patients can be seen, evaluated, counseled, and informed about their healthcare without being exposed to the dangers of going into lobbies and offices," said <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/ommen-steve-r-m-d/bio-20053861" target="_blank">Dr. Steve Ommen</a>, cardiologist and associate dean of the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, which offers telemedicine services.</p><p>"It is particularly relevant for patients who already have a relationship with a provider, the appointment is for an ongoing care episode, and the patient doesn't need to be touched," he said.</p><p>A virtual doctor's visit can't be a substitute for all routine care, though. Cancer screenings, blood draws, evaluations of lumps, Pap smears, and other services still need to be done in person.</p><p>But even if you do have to go to the doctor's office, telehealth services can help cut down on the amount of time you spend there, thus potentially reducing your exposure to the new coronavirus and other germs.</p>
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Viral images of thousands of people eschewing the recommendations of medical experts and epidemiologists were on full display in the U.S. over Memorial Day weekend. In Missouri, St. Louis County officials called the images of crowds gathered at pool parties at bars and yacht clubs in the Lake of the Ozarks an "international example of bad judgment," according to The Washington Post.
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By Jeannette Cwienk
When it comes to recycling and recyclability, very little, it seems is straightforward — even something as seemingly simple as orange juice can present a conundrum. In Germany, many smaller shops sell drinks in cartons or plastic bottles, both of which will end up in the yellow recycling bin. But how do their recycling credentials stack up?
More and More Multilayer Packaging<p>How easy is it to recognize multilayer packaging? With drink cartons, it's usually obvious that they're made from a combination of different materials, but with other products, such as candy wrappers, it's a different story.</p><p>Such packaging can be made from a complex mix of up to 10 different films of plastic, which as Joachim Christiani, managing director of German recycling institute cyclos-HTP, explains, is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-produces-record-amount-of-packaging-waste/a-51293541" target="_blank">invisible to consumers</a>.</p><p>"In recent years there's been a trend toward so-called multilayer packaging, which is extremely light and thin. It saves material as well as CO2 emissions during transport, but can't be recycled," Christiani says.</p><p>Because it is not possible to melt the different plastics together, or — at least for now — to separate the individual films from one another at recycling plants.</p>
Lack of Recycled Plastic<p>A 2017 cyclos-HTP study into the recyclability of conventional packaging waste concluded that a third of it was not recyclable, and only 40% of the remaining two-thirds was made into plastic recyclate. The rest was used as fuel <em>—</em> in other words it was incinerated.</p><p>"There was no economic or political pressure to recycle more than this amount," Christiani says. "The prescribed recycling quotas were met, and there were not nearly enough recycling plants."</p>
Room for Greenwashing<p>According to a 2018 survey by Germany's vzbv consumer protection association, most consumers would like to see more plastic recycling, especially when it comes to packaging.</p><p>Although some products come in packaging that is advertised as being "made from recycled material," Elke Salzmann, a resource protection officer with vzbv, says that can be misleading.</p><p>"It says nothing about how much recycled material the packaging actually contains," according to Salzmann. "And it also doesn't mean that the recycled plastic comes from collected plastic waste. It could just as well come from plastic leftovers created during the production of primary plastic."</p><p>The term "ocean plastic," which some textile and shoe manufacturers use to advertise the recycled plastic in their product lines, can also be misleading, Salzmann says.</p><p><span></span>"Plastic waste from the ocean is in much too bad a state to be recycled. Instead, they use plastic waste from beaches or riverbanks."</p>
Laws Against Plastic<p>Images of garbage choking our waters and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/eurythenes-plasticus-a-deep-sea-crustacean-full-of-plastic/a-52663559" target="_blank">killing marine wildlife</a> have played a key role in giving plastic a negative reputation among the public, and politicians have started to act.</p><p>Many countries worldwide have introduced bans on single-use items, and in Germany, a 2019 packaging law stipulates a plastics recycling quota of 90% from 2022, up from 36%. That said, the quota only refers to how much material has to be fed into the recycling system, not how much ultimately needs to be recycled.</p>
Rethinking the Whole System<p>Although plastic is a very useful material, at the end of its life it causes many problems, EASAC environmental program director Michael Norton tells DW, adding that we have to rethink the whole system and completely change the way we use plastic.</p><p>Joachim Christiani says the packaging industry is starting to catch on. Around 70% of recycled mass can currently be generated from packaging, but that figure is expected to rise in the future.</p><p>"95% is quite feasible," says the engineer, adding that sorting facilities are currently undergoing improvements, while packaging design is also changing.</p>
Clear Plastics Are Easiest to Recycle<p>As things stand, PET bottles are easiest to recycle because they're not mixed with other materials. New bottles can therefore easily be made from the old ones and the recycling rate is high. But the color of the bottle can pose a problem.</p><p>Because plastic is sorted by type rather than color, if different colors of plastic are mixed, the resulting recyclate cannot be used for light-colored packaging, which many manufacturers want. The upshot is the introduction of new plastic instead.</p><p>Consumer and environmental associations have long called for recyclability, greater sorting purity and better sorting facilities, but their most important demand remains waste avoidance through reusable systems.</p><p>"Why melt down disposable bottles to make new disposable bottles when you can refill them up to 20 times?" Buschmann asks.</p>
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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark.
Building Food Communities<p>Family farms in California and across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus on their markets. But in the health-conscious Bay Area, where celery was already one of the first groceries to disappear from the produce rack, demand for fresh local produce has shot up. The challenge is in redirecting food from farms to new customers.</p><p>Sonoma County has historically been an agricultural region. When the organic food movement sprang up in the 1970s, this area was one of its early proponents. The first farmers markets and CSAs appeared in the 1980s and flourished, but the burgeoning network was later eclipsed by an inflated wine industry, much of it owned by distant corporations.</p><p>According to a 2018 crop report, 60,000 acres have gone to grapes, with only 500 acres in food crops. Land prices have skyrocketed, the cost of labor has gone up, and increased regulations have all made it harder to run a viable business here. Many farmers had turned to "boutique" specialty crops for restaurants.</p><p>"Farmers are always in an uphill battle, especially ecological farmers," says Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. "I often hear them say, 'I'm working my butt off and hoping for the best.'" That's even more true now, as the pandemic strangles economies the world over.</p>
Scaling Up Support<p>F.E.E.D. Sonoma, a food hub that aggregates produce from dozens of local farms, was another quick responder. When the pandemic hit, it went from serving Bay Area restaurants to building a cooperative of farmers, filling food boxes for distribution at F.E.E.D.'s Petaluma warehouse and other drop spots in the county.</p><p>"Our local food system is extremely diverse," says co-founder Tim Page, who has the energy of a visionary combined with the skills of a businessman. "We have a ton of small farms but we don't have the infrastructure to support them. That is what F.E.E.D. is trying to establish." Since converting the restaurant supply business to a CSA, it has gone from 90 boxes to 450. Ultimately, the goal is 1,800 or more.</p><p>"I grew up in L.A.," Page says. "Every single farm is gone. The same thing will happen here if the general public does not understand the importance of it.</p><p>"That understanding was on display at the Sonoma Farmers Market, which now operates with strict restrictions and safety precautions because of the virus. "We think F.E.E.D. is going to save us," said Candy Wirtz, co-director of Paul's Produce, a well-established farm in Sonoma, as she weighed out my purchases. The CSA model could be transformative for Paul's and other farms across the country.</p><p>Subscribing to a CSA is a lifestyle change for consumers, to be sure. It means eating what's in season and learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables. But it's a change that many people are making now because of the stay-at-home orders. "People just have to learn to cook again instead of eating out," says Judith Redmond, part-owner of Full Belly Farm near Sacramento.</p><p>In light of this newfound commitment to CSAs, Perrotti, of Coyote Family Farm, says: "My hope is that this solidifies instead of going back to the way things were. I hope the importance of local farming stays at the forefront."</p>
Farms With Futures<p>To help small farmers stay in business during the crisis, Community Alliance is also advocating for stimulus dollars. "Most often subsidies go to a small number of the largest farms, or to buy food that goes to food banks from far away, while local farmers can't sell their food," Wiig says. "We want food banks to buy from local farms."</p><p>This seems like a win-win. Millions of tons of food is being plowed under as 60 million people are now going hungry, 17 million of them since the pandemic began, according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks.</p><p>But it's complicated. David Goodman of the Redwood Empire Food Bank puts it plainly: Local food is too expensive. "We distribute nine and a half million pounds of produce annually," he says. "It costs about 9 cents a pound, 3 cents to transport. With 82,000 people to feed, it would be a luxury to think of tending to local needs by buying locally."</p><p>That reticence is partly because the food bank system is tangled in bureaucracy. The USDA decides what to purchase and from where. Because of the distances between sites, the federal agency has tended to favor foods with long shelf lives, such as canned and processed foods, and long-lasting produce like apples and potatoes. "If local food is what we need, there has to be a plan," Goodman says.</p><p>Such a plan might be where short-term disaster relief meets long-term resilience. Michael Dimock is president of Roots of Change, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transforming California's food system. To get serious about preparing the food system for future disasters, Dimock says, the government needs to be involved. Roots of Change is now advocating for a tax on sugary beverages to help foot the bill.</p><p>Dimock says the state needs a paradigm shift for farms to remain viable in the face of multiplying disasters to come—not only pandemics, but fires, floods, and other symptoms of climate change. "How bold will people get in the months ahead to demand real change? My hope is they will get more radical."</p><p>Food is fundamental. While farmers have yet to face the full economic impact of this pandemic, their collaborative efforts, along with local grassroots networks, could mark the beginning of a new economy laboring to be born.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."
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Alberta Energy Minister Calls Pandemic ‘a Great Time’ to Build Pipelines Due to Protest Restrictions
Anti-pipeline protests work.
That's the implication behind comments made by Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Friday on how coronavirus social distancing requirements could ease the construction of Canada's controversial Trans Mountain Expansion project.