The Consequences of Plumbing Problems

BP has a refinery in Whiting, Indiana.

BP has a refinery in Whiting, Indiana. According to the energy company: “Established in 1889, the Whiting refinery is capable of processing more than any other BP refinery in the world – up to 19 million gallons of refined products every day, meeting the needs of more than 3 million consumers across seven states.”

The company has spent billions of dollars on the refinery over the past few years, which employs some 1,850 people.


Photo: BP Whiting

According to BP, those 19-million gallons are capable of fueling 430,000 cars, 22,000 commercial trucks, and 10,000 tractors.

Last week, as China devalued the Yuan, oil prices went down.

Last week, there was a problem at BP Whiting.

And for those “3 million consumers across seven states,” gas prices rose. In my locale, gas stations have increased pump prices by more than 40-cents.

So far.

This is an aspect of the whole debate about what should/will power cars and trucks that doesn’t get much attention.

The argument against non-gasoline powered vehicles is, powerfully, that there is now an abundance of oil thanks to advanced drilling techniques, so all we need to do is to continue to improve the performance of internal combustion engines.

Electrification? Hydrogen?


But when there’s a spanner in the works—or when something goes wrong with the plumbing at a refinery like that in Whiting—then suddenly it doesn’t matter that oil is trading at low levels, because that oil needs to be refined into useful products.

We might want to go with alternatives not just because of regulations and the like, but because oceans of oil notwithstanding, we might want to cover our bets.