The Houston Chronicle reports on the difficult financial position of many U.S. refineries. Crude oil prices are up for refineries relying on international markets, but U.S. consumers are moderating their gasoline consumption at higher prices and so refiners find their margins to be getting squeezed.
A good article, but right at the end we get this oddball proposal:
Still, refineries could do more to curb skyrocketing gasoline prices, said Amy Myers Jaffe, fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute. A government mandate for refineries to maintain a certain level of gasoline in storage would help to curb market fears of a shortage, fears that fuel rapid price spikes, she said.
“We should be requiring inventories of gasoline,” Jaffe said, to reassure the market that supplies won’t run short.
Seems to me a non sequitur wrapped in a riddle: refineries should be doing more to curb skyrocketing gasoline costs? Why refineries? Every indication is that gasoline prices are being driven by world oil crude oil prices (expect for the bottlenecked supplies of the northern Rocky Mountain states). There is no indication that “the market” is fearing a shortage of gasoline, is there? By the way, gasoline inventories are pretty high for this time of year AND consumption has been trending down, so who thinks consumer fears of a gasoline shortage are a problem?
And, I guess this is my real question, what makes Jaffe think that the solution to the refineries’ current woes is to impose regulations that would significantly add to their costs? Exactly how is this going to “do more to curb skyrocketing gasoline prices”?
Jaffe is usually smarter than this, so I’m a bit confused by the idea.