Watching the Hurricane, Wondering about Energy

Best single place to keep track of Hurricane’s Ike impact is the Weather Nerd blog from Brendan Loy at Pajama’s Media.  Good compendium of resources and informed commentary, including worrisome observations like:

Even if Ike’s winds were to unexpectedly weaken to Cat. 1 force (or, heck, to tropical storm force), Ike would still be a “major hurricane” in terms of its massive storm surge. The surge, not the category, is the story! This is because of the sheer volume of water Ike is pushing across the Gulf, as I discussed at length yesterday. And that water is already in motion, inexorably bearing down on the gently sloping Texas coast. If coastal residents are taking this storm less seriously than they might because it’s “only” a Category 2, they are making a serious mistake. Eric Berger has an excellent post this morning about the predicted surge, with an updated SLOSH map.

And for the impact on energy, Bloomberg’s story is good:

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) — Crude oil and gasoline rose as Hurricane Ike headed toward the Texas coast, home to 23 percent of U.S. refining capacity, shutting almost all Gulf of Mexico oil production as it passes.

About 19 percent of U.S. oil processing capacity has been shut before Ike makes landfall today. More than a quarter of U.S. crude production is based in the Gulf Coast region. Evacuations have halted 97 percent of Gulf oil output, the Minerals Management Service said yesterday.

“The big concern is about the products because the refineries aren’t running,” said Tom Bentz, senior energy analyst at BNP Paribas in New York. “It remains to be seen how much damage will occur, but nobody wants to take chances.”

The concentration of energy-producing infrastructure on the Gulf Coast is detrimental to U.S. economic resilience. We need more redundancy and geographically dispersed production and refining capacity — as in a new refinery in South Dakota by Hyperion and an expansion at ConocoPhillips’ Wood River Refinery in southern Illinois. Yes, more of that kind of thing, and less of this:

Oregon and 11 other states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.

The suit, led by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, charges that the EPA violated the federal Clean Air Act by refusing to issue standards, known as new source performance standards, for controlling global warming pollution emissions from oil refineries.

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