Massive Fire at Chevron Refinery May Cause Gas Prices to Spike to $4

Flickr: spieri_sf/CC BY 2.0

Monday, one of the largest oil refineries on the West Coast erupted in flames, causing a rather photogenic plume of smoke to engulf the bay area. The event quickly caught the attention of climate activists, who turned photos of the accident into an anti-fossil fuel meme.

The incident is also likely to have some pretty immediate impacts on the state's economy—seeing as how the plant refines 16% of the West Coast's gasoline, analysts are expecting prices at the pump to rise. Maybe even above $4 a gallon.

Here's the AP:

The West Coast is particularly vulnerable to spikes in gasoline prices because it's not well-connected to the refineries along the Gulf Coast, where most of the country's refining capacity is located, analysts say.

Chevron's refinery is particularly big and important to the market, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.

It produces about 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day - 16 percent of the West Coast's daily gasoline consumption of 963,000 barrels, according to Kloza.

With inventories of gasoline in the region already low compared with the rest of the country, pump prices in California and elsewhere on the West Coast will soon average more than $4 per gallon, Kloza said.

As if that wasn't bad enough, some 180 people were admitted to local hospitals after being exposed to the smoke. Patients suffered breathing problems, bouts of nausea and eye irritation—most were also quickly released.

But the event aptly underlines, for the gazillionth time, the eminently precarious position fossil fuel reliance leaves us in. All it takes is an accident in a single refinery to disrupt the entire regional economy, sending scores of people to the emergency room in the process.

Tags: Oil

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