By Dan Shapley
With refineries running well below capacity, domestic supplies could be easily disrupted
Gas inventories have increased, and prices have come down of late -- but with refineries running well below capacity, domestic gasoline supplies are vulnerable to hurricanes or other disruptions that could cause prices to jump significantly and without warning. U.S. refineries are producing only 87.6% of the gas possible, at a time when summer demand for gasoline typically drives plants toward full tilt. Maintenance -- both planned and unplanned -- is to blame for the drop in capacity. Oil companies have, of late, said they are not inclined to invest in new refineries, despite universal agreement that the nation's refineries are old and over-taxed. With the Democratic Congress turning the priorities of national energy policy away from oil and gas and toward renewable fuels, companies don't see a longterm advantage in investing in gas refining. This is another example of the bumpy ride we're likely to experience as we drive toward a new energy economy, according to a story in the June 21 USA Today.