America’s high gas prices are being caused, in part, by what has been called an “invisible hurricane” – have been plagued by a record number of fires, power failures, leaks, spills and breakdowns this year, causing dozens of them to shut down temporarily or trim production.
These mechanical breakdowns have created a bottleneck in domestic energy supplies, helping to push up gasoline prices 50 cents this year to well above $3 a gallon. A third of the country’s 150 refineries have reported disruptions to their operations since the beginning of the year, a record according to analysts.
There have been blazes at refineries in Louisiana, Texas, Indiana and California, some of them caused by lightning strikes. Plants have suffered power losses that disrupted operations; a midsize refinery in Kansas was flooded by torrential rains last month.
American refiners are running roughly 5 percent below their normal levels at this time of the year.
Although many factors have led to the rise in gas prices, including disruptions in oil supplies from places like Nigeria and Norway, analysts say the refining bottleneck in North America has been one of the main drivers of higher energy prices this year.
Interestingly, though, although consumers complain loudly about high prices, they show no signs of scaling back. Gasoline consumption reached 9.66 million barrels a day in the first week of July, the second-highest level on record.
Well it is the summer driver season after all…