An article in Investor’s Business Daily puts a greater share of responsibility for high gas prices on EPA’s perpetual regulatory crusade, particularly its influence on refineries:
The untold story behind soaring pump prices is that major U.S. refineries are going out of business and creating at least regional shortages thanks in no small part to costly EPA rules. Over just the past six months, three refineries supplying about half the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to the East Coast have closed, including two owned by Sunoco Inc. They say they simply cannot make money anymore. Philadelphia-based Sunoco’s refinery business in the Northeast has lost almost $1 billion over the past three years as U.S. demand for gas fell and the cost of foreign crude soared. But over the same period, it had to shell out “significant expenditures for environmental projects and compliance activities” to satisfy onerous EPA mandates, according to the company’s latest 10-K report. In fact, it’s spent more than $1.3 billion just to comply with stricter EPA rules, which carry stiff fines or penalties for violations. Sunoco fretted that these regulatory costs would grow exponentially under the Obama administration, which has hit some of its refineries with fines.
It’s long been known that refinery costs contribute significantly to gas prices. As I wrote in a recent article for The American:
Another factor that may have contributed to the increased price of gasoline is the reduction in the number of operating refineries in the United States over the last 30 years. The number and capacity of U.S. refineries peaked in 1981, and, since then, 171 plants have closed, although the remaining plants have increased output to offset a loss of production. Though most of this reduction has been caused by the low profit potential of refineries, others see a significant cause in “extremely tight environmental restrictions, not-in-my-backyard community opposition, and the high cost of new construction.” Refinery profit margins have played a role in recent gasoline price hikes. The EIA suggests that “The sizable jump in retail prices this year reflects not only the higher average cost of crude oil compared to previous years, but also an increase in U.S. refining margins on gasoline (the difference between refinery wholesale gasoline prices and the average cost of crude oil) from an average of $0.34 per gallon in 2010 to $0.45 per gallon in 2011 and $0.42 per gallon in 2012.”
Though EPA’s official position is that every action they take is all benefit and no cost, facts—and gas prices—are stubborn things.