HolyCoast: Refinery Problems Driving Up Gas Prices in the West

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Refinery Problems Driving Up Gas Prices in the West

Yesterday I saw Regular Unleaded for $4.49 at a station that was $4.23 just a week ago.  Here's why:
The lowest May gasoline supplies in the Western U.S. in 20 years have prices climbing again in most places west of the Rocky Mountains, even as they continue to fall across the rest of the nation. In California, pump prices for regular gas have jumped 13.5 cents since last week.

Analysts blamed refinery problems for the new spike in fuel costs. The state once had as many as 14 refineries producing gasoline for motorists, but in recent years, the number has dropped to 12. Now, one-third of those refineries have been in temporary shutdowns, mostly because of maintenance.

As if that wasn't bad enough, BP is still struggling to reopen its Cherry Point refinery in Washington, where a fire caused a shutdown that began in March. That has forced some Washington gasoline suppliers to look toward California's limited fuel stocks.

California and the West Coast "is the one region in the U.S. that still has a little Jason Voorhees from 'Friday the 13th' in its system. Price spikes there are not dead yet," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in California is $4.345, up from $4.210 a week ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. In Washington, the average price for a gallon of regular has climbed 12.7 cents to $4.201 a gallon since last week. In Oregon, a gallon of regular has jumped 15.6 cents to $4.169 during the same period.
At a time of high demand having four refineries out of 12 down for maintenance could easily make me believe the conspiracy theories that oil companies are artifically driving up costs. It's absurd. When you add in the effect of requiring a different gasoline blend for the summer, you can add the regulators to that conspiracy theory.

This isn't going to play well with voters.

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