EPA Not To Blame For Closing Refineries

Posted by By at 17 April, at 12 : 38 PM Print

There is a lot of talk lately about how the price of gas in the northeast is going to continue to rise over the summer because Sunoco and ConocoPhillips have shut down, or are about to shut down, their refineries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“EPA regulations under the Obama administration are causing refinery shutdown,” state Rep. Dan Moul, R-91, said recently in a telephone interview.

“They (EPA) keep changing them,” he said of the regulations.

But many of the changes are like the tax cut that, when it was set to expire, was labeled a tax increase. It’s all a matter of perspective.

EPA does what it was intended to do when it was established by Congress and President Rchard Nixon; it writes regulations to protect the air we breath and the water we drink.

Industry fights the regulations, and at best only some are put into effect. A few months or years later, EPA announces it will begin enforcing the rules is already was supposed to be enforcing, and industry claims that’s a “job killing” change.

But according to several sources, including the refinery owners, the U.S. EPA is not the source of their woes – unless we count a planned 25 percent increase in U.S. vehicle gas mileage scheduled by 2015.

It turns out the plants are having financial troubles because:

= their retail consumers are using less gasoline, as they purchase more efficient automobiles or switch to some other mode of transportation, and

= oil of the type used by those refineries must be purchased at ever increasing prices. The result – of more costly oil and less demand for gasoline – has resulted in the lowest profitability in nine years, according to a Bloomberg report.

There goes that out-of-control EPA again, telling companies to make cars that go farther on a gallon of gas. There already is a sizeable fleet of individual commuter cars getting upwards of 35-37 mpg. The Fiat 500 reports up to 38 mpg, and Hyundai claims the average of all its new cars will be 35 mpg by 2015.

Low gasoline sales are not a situation unique to the U.S. In addition to Sunoco and Conoco Phillips, Valero Energy Corp., PetroPlus AG, and Hess Corp reportedly are making plans to close or sell their refineries on the U.S. East Coast and in Europe – because oil from Nigeria, Norway and other sources is becoming too expensive and consumers are not buying enough.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline will not help, either. The oil it would transport from Canada to Texas is too heavy to be processed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania refineries, and the Galveston, Texas refineries it will feed already have said they will be selling their products to Asian markets.

Moul said he wants to subsidize large companies, giving them incentive to switch their work truck fleets to natural gas. I submit we should use the money to find ways to make natural gas more attractive (read: affordable) to individual consumers who now look at $4/gal. gas and wonder how they are going to haul their camper, boat and family on vacation – or even themselves to work.

Waste Management and the nation’s trucking companies will make the switch when they can raise prices to cover the cost and not hurt profits. Individual wage earners do not have that option.

We have been talking about energy independence for decades. Beginning with President Nixon, and probably long before, we have been told we need to strive for it. Most recently, the fear angle has been added, as we are reminded some of our sources are not particularly friendly toward us.

But we already are exporting coal, oil and refined products. The U.S. is not short on energy sources.

We are, however, short of willingness to find cleaner and more affordable ways to power our homes, cars and toys, and lack of foresight to the effects our continued use of fossil fuels is having on the planet we will leave to our grandkids.

Photo by CSLP
This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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