Op-Ed: We can’t afford to shutter California’s aging oil refineries yet
The energy industry can’t afford to shut down oil refineries — for now at least. That’s one of the best bets we have right now to stop the runaway price of gasoline. But it’s hard to see what would induce an energy company to do such a thing when you look at the economic benefits of being able to buy cheap energy and sell it at higher prices in California and elsewhere.
It’s true that we’ve got an over capacity of oil production, and, as the oil industry itself concedes, there’s a lot of oil that we don’t know about. If we shut down refineries, companies will simply look for more oil to buy from other U.S. producers or from offshore sources. The oil industry has, however, long argued that refineries are essential infrastructure that we need to keep running.
I have to admit I’m torn over this. The argument from the oil company to the government is that there are lots of people who get good jobs from oil refineries and that those jobs and the communities where they live help keep the economy rolling along. But the oil company also argues that we need the oil industry because it helps the U.S. to be self-sufficient in oil. If we shut down the refineries, then we’d no longer be able to make the necessary oil products for ourselves without imports, and that would take away a lot of the benefits we get from them.
The problem, of course, is that the argument about jobs has always been a good one. But there is also a second good argument for the industry. It’s also a pretty hard argument to make out in the current political environment. The idea is that the oil industry has helped the U.S. to become a much more self-sufficient energy producer, one that can easily maintain its energy security and its ability to do business in the rest of the world on its own. The argument is that one of the chief concerns about global warming is the amount of oil that we’re burning, and that we need to be able to sell more of our oil here at a