The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Analysis: Myth That Offshore Drilling Would Lower Gas Prices Gets Boost From Major Media


media has played a significant role in convincing Americans that
offshore drilling for oil in the United States could significantly
lower the price of gasoline, according to an analysis
released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Even
though the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency has
stated that the benefits from such drilling would be too small to have
any significant effect on oil prices, the media has overwhelmingly
conveyed the impression that it could. Media coverage of the issue may
have influenced public opinion, with a majority now favoring expanded
drilling, as proposed by presidential candidate John McCain.

"This is a clear case where the overwhelming majority of the media has
not done its job, and the McCain campaign is benefiting as a result,"
said CEPR Co-Director and co-author of the paper, Mark Weisbrot.

The paper, "Oil Drilling In Environmentally Sensitive Areas: The Role of the Media,"
finds that in 267 television news broadcasts, the Energy Information
Agency data was cited only once. Also, in 91 percent of the news
programs in this sample, there was not even an opposing opinion

"There really isn't any excuse for the media to ignore the official
data on this issue," said Weisbrot. "It's like reporting on the economy
and ignoring the official data on GDP growth, unemployment, or
inflation. No wonder the public is confused."

Recent public opinion polls show 69 percent of respondents favored
expanded drilling, and 51 percent said that they believed that "federal
laws that prohibit increased drilling for oil offshore or in wilderness
areas" were a "major cause of the recent increase in gasoline

The paper also notes that the role of the biggest media outlets in
shaping public opinion on offshore drilling is underestimated by the
results in the sample. Talk radio, which is overwhelmingly right wing,
reaches a weekly audience in the tens of millions,[2] and reinforced
the message that the proposed drilling would lower gasoline prices.

[1] CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, July 30, 2008 []

[2] See "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio," Center for American Progress and Free Press (2007) []

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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