Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Jersey's Oil Refineries Begin Pre-Sandy Shutdown

Yeah, admit it - you've long been ashamed of the eyesore running from Exits 12 -14 on the Turnpike.  And not without due cause, as it is a vision out of hell - endless wastes filled with harsh industrial architecture, seemingly producing only huge, belching plumes of smoke shot with the red/yellow flash of refinery flames. Flanked by 12+ lanes of superhighway on one side and the rancid Kill Van Kull on the other, it even comes with its own soundtrack:  Ceaseless heavy-truck traffic mixed with the roar of jet engines throttling back as they land in Newark (directly across the street, seemingly) every 45 seconds.

It's made the state the butt of jokes from time immemorial.  But at least for the moment, those smokestacks are going cold, and we are all going to feel it - in our wallets:

The second-largest refinery on the U.S. East Coast was shutting down on Sunday and three other plants cut output as Hurricane Sandy threatened widespread power outages and a massive storm surge across the region.

Phillips 66 has begun shutting its 238,000-barrels-per day (bpd) Bayway, N.J., refinery, nicknamed the "gasoline machine" because of its key role supplying motor fuel to the New York City area. The plant, the only one to close during Hurricane Irene last year, should be completely shut by early Monday morning, the company said in a statement....

Oil traders were already factoring in a potential squeeze on fuel supplies. Benchmark gasoline futures jumped 1 percent and heating oil rose 0.6 percent as New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) trading began on Sunday evening, U.S. time. Crude oil prices dipped by 0.4 percent.

The storm comes as low inventories of refined products, especially distillates and heating oil, have stirred concerns of potential price spikes during the winter heating season....

Oh, we're gonna see a spike, all right.

But, most importantly (well, this is a political blog) - are there implications here for the presidential election as well?

While I have already postulated that Hurricane Sandy could play to Obama's benefit, any disruption of oil supplies in the cold nights that will follow the storm may work against him.  Obama will blame the weather and those damn oil companies for the escalating gas prices and shivering families, but in the wreckage that may follow Sandy, no one will be in the mood for excuses.  The Republicans will be eviscerated by the media, but they'll still point out that the president has worked his entire first term to eliminate any expansion of these types of facilities.

That message, despite poor timing, will find better traction than Obama's blame game.  Plus, it empowers the affected population to take what they might perceive as "direct action" against their situation against Obama.

More than one storm may be brewing out there.

No comments: