Category Archives: Gasoline prices

California Gas Prices Expected to Spike in Wake of Shutdown at Valero’s Benicia Refinery

Repost from KQED California Report

By Ted Goldberg, Mar 26, 2019
Valero’s Benicia refinery on March 24, 2019. (Solano County)

California drivers — or the millions of them whose cars still run on refined petroleum — can expect to pay more to fill up their gas tanks in the coming days thanks to the partial shutdown of Valero’s Benicia refinery.

The retail cost of a gallon of gasoline in the state is expected to rise immediately, according to David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a transportation energy consulting company based in Irvine.

That’s after a 12-cent spike in wholesale gas prices on Monday, Hackett said.

“That price increase is likely to get passed through to motorists over the next week or so,” he said. “You’ll start seeing prices go up starting probably today.”

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California is $3.51, 16 cents higher than a week ago, according to AAA.

Several agencies are investigating a series of petroleum coke dust releases at the Benicia refinery that began more than two weeks ago. Those releases intensified on Sunday, prompting city officials to issue a health advisory.

The Valero refinery’s flue gas scrubber malfunctioned, a problem that led to a sooty plume of petroleum coke to billow out of the facility’s smokestacks. To deal with the problem, the refinery is slowly shutting down a significant part of its operations.

Last week, problems at two other California refineries contributed to the recent jump in gas prices.

AAA says a fire at a crude processing unit at the Phillips 66 refinery in Los Angeles County and a series of flaring incidents at Chevron’s Richmond refinery drove prices higher.

AAA spokesman Michael Blasky said price spikes are the norm when refineries suffer problems that lead to curtailed production.

“When a refinery goes offline and supply drops, retailers incorporate price increases almost immediately in California,” Blasky said.

Wholesale suppliers that sell fuel to gas stations and hear about the Benicia refinery’s shutdown will probably go into the so-called spot market to buy gas, sending the price up, Hackett said.

The refinery problems come amid a jump in the price of crude oil over the last year, which has sent gas prices up nationally.

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    California attorney general subpoenas oil refiners

    Repost from SFGate
    [Editor:  See also coverage in Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.  – RS]

    California attorney general subpoenas refiners on gas prices

    Associated Press, Updated 2:57 pm, Friday, July 1, 2016

    The California attorney general has issued subpoenas to several oil refiners to learn how they set gasoline prices, which are consistently higher in California than in most other states.

    Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. confirmed on Thursday that they have received subpoenas in recent weeks.

    The attorney general is making a sweeping request for information about gasoline supplies, pricing, and maintenance shutdowns that can temporarily create shortages and increase prices, according to people familiar with the investigation. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the subpoenas.

    The requests came from Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate. Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for Harris, declined to comment on whether her office was investigating.

    Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall said the company received a subpoena from the attorney general’s office and would cooperate with the investigation.

    Valero received a subpoena “and we will respond accordingly,” said spokeswoman Lillian Riojas.

    Spokesmen for Exxon and Tesoro also confirmed the requests for information. None of the companies would discuss the matter further.

    California perennially has among the nation’s highest prices for gasoline. This week, the average for a gallon of regular was $2.90 in the state compared with the national average of $2.29, according to the AAA auto club.

    Some consumer advocates have charged that refiners drive prices higher by tactics such as frequent or overly long plant shutdowns.
    Refineries are routinely taken offline for maintenance, and there have been longer-lasting outages after disasters such as the explosion in February 2015 at an Exxon refinery in Torrance, near Los Angeles.

    Gordon Schremp, senior fuels specialist with the California Energy Commission, said 2015 saw an “extraordinary price spike in magnitude and duration in California,” which a commission advisory committee has been investigating.

    “We are aware that they were doing this,” Schremp said of the attorney general’s investigation, “because off and on they’ve talked to us about what was going on with the 2015 market, important factors that can cause spikes in the markets.”

    Industry officials blame high prices on California’s stricter clean-air requirements, which they say add costs and make it more difficult to import gasoline from other states when there is a price spike.
    Rebecca Adler, a spokeswoman for the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, called the allegations in the subpoenas baseless.

    “We are confident that nothing will come of this,” she said.

    The group Consumer Watchdog has repeatedly called on Harris to investigate oil companies over California gas prices and welcomed news of the investigation.

    “It’s great that we have a law enforcement official asking questions about both supplying the market and equitable pricing within the market,” said the group’s president, Jamie Court.

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      U.S. Senators introduce “Keep It In the Ground Act”

      Repost from the Independent Journal

      Bernie Sanders Announces Plan to Strangle the Booming Fossil Fuel Industry in America

      By Michael Hausam, November 5, 2015
      Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, center, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (l) announce new climate legislation, Nov. 4, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo: AP)

      The just-introduced “Keep It In the Ground Act,” co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders, would halt new oil and gas exploration on federal lands and offshore waters. It also would terminate any existing leases that aren’t currently producing.

      The bill is also sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

      In an announcement at the Capitol in D.C., Sanders said that the end result of the legislation would be to make sure that:

      “over 90 percent of the potential carbon emissions from oil, gas and coal on our federal lands and federal waters (would stay) underground forever.”

      The motivation for the bill is to combat climate change. In Sanders’ statement at the rally, he took a shot at his Republican opponents, whom he characterized as deniers:

      “But somehow — somehow! — when it comes to climate change there are massive attacks on scientists who tell us the truth about climate change. Worry less about your campaign contributions, worry more about your children and grandchildren. The debate is over.”

      Of course, this bill only addresses the supply side of fossil fuels and does nothing about addressing the demand for oil and gas – other than via necessarily driving up the costs of gasoline, electricity, and others that depend on their availability.

      Stopping the availability of using federal lands for fossil fuels is a key priority for the anti-fossil fuels movement.

      With roughly half of the remaining unexploited fossil fuels in the U.S. being on those lands, according to Grist, the jobs and fuels from this battle will make a huge difference for groups warning about global warming, as well as people who care about cheap fuel for economic growth and prosperity.

       

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