Phantom refining capacity

European Union drivers see $3/gal gasoline as deliriously cheap, but to many Americans that price is an assault on their rights. Politicians, editorialists, and TV commentators tell them they are in this plight because the industry has shut down scores of refineries and hasn’t built any for years. This conclusion is incorrect.Yes, since 1981, 171 US refineries have closed, dropping the number operating to 132 today. This accounts for a statistical loss (because capacities are dynamic) of some 1.7 million b/cd to today’s total capacity of 16.8 million b/cd. That sounds like a lot. But it’s quality of capacity, not quantity, that counts.Dull refineriesThis writer, now reti...

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