Gas pains

As part of the ‘Ike Tours Texas’ fallout, refiners on the Gulf are still shut down which is causing spot shortages in Atlanta (which sucks anyway) and in Tennessee. And, apparently, Dallas. Here’s what caught my eye (and keep in mind the effected refiners account for 20% of US capacity)

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 11.5 million barrels per day during the week ending September 19, down more than 1.7 million barrels per day from the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 66.7 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production fell last week, averaging about 8.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging nearly 3.3 million barrels per day. (EIA)

So, refineries effected by Ike account for 20% of US refining capacity and we’re down to 66%??!?! That seems strange at a time where wholesale gasoline recently spiked to $5/gal.
Then I saw this and start to think maybe there is something going on.
SO, we have a massive crude and gasoline supply disruption as a result of a hurricane. Combine that with newfound regulatory zeal from governments around the world, all of whom are looking to strangle speculation and suddenly refiners have decided to artificially (for ‘repairs’) reduce the gasoline available in the market?
Methinks this is a pretty clear cut case of supply manipulation. They can’t play with the price since the speculators (those still left in the business now that LEH is gone and MS and GS are under scrutiny) have had to cut back. So they energy companies themselves have decided to create an artificial supply constraint by shutting in capacity unaffected by Ike.
Ain’t it nice that the oil companies care so much about their customers?

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