Refiners asked to increase production : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Richardson Urges Refiners to Boost Gasoline Production

By Tom Doggett Reuters

WASHINGTON (April 4) - Energy Secretary Bill Richardson urged refinery operators on Tuesday to increase gasoline production to meet consumer demand for the upcoming busy summer driving season.

Richardson told reporters before the meeting that he also planned to tell refiners to pass on some of their savings from cheaper oil to consumers in the form of lower-priced gasoline. Energy Department officials declined to give further details after the 30-minute meeting.

Richardson has said gasoline prices are expected to fall as additional oil supplies from OPEC arrive in the U.S. market in about a month. On Monday, the department reported that the national pump price for gasoline had fallen for the second week in a row to $1.50 a gallon.

Richardson said he would also ask refinery operators what the federal government could do to help them overcome "bureaucratic roadblocks" and get more gasoline into the market.

"That's a good summary of the meeting," said Bob Slaughter, general counsel for the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, one of several industry groups at the meeting.

Officials from the American Petroleum Institute, the Petroleum Marketing Association and representatives of gasoline station dealers were also present.

Richardson has said refiners need to operate at 98 percent capacity this spring to produce enough gasoline to meet summer demand. U.S. refinery utilization is currently at 92.2 percent, according to the Energy Department.

Slaughter said industry representatives did not make any predictions during the meeting on how much gasoline refiners would produce this summer. "We're not in the forecasting business," he said.

However, he said there was no evidence presented during the talks of "extraordinary problems in the (refining) industry's ability to respond to the market."

Slaughter said industry representatives cautioned there was always the chance that a sudden refinery shutdown could disrupt gasoline production and fuel distribution.

"Refiners are in the business of producing products to meet customer demand, and we're very good at it," Slaughter said. "You have to look at our historic track record, which is very good."

Refiners are seeking long-term relief from some government regulations, especially the Environmental Protection Agency's low sulfur requirements for diesel fuel, he said.

For the short-term, Slaughter said some refiners could ask for relief from EPA gasoline content specifications as operators switch from producing winter reformulated gasoline to summer gasoline.

"We'll know very soon if there are any problems in changing over the tanks from winter gasoline to summer gasoline," he said.

EPA administrator Carol Browner said Tuesday she was not aware of any specific requests from refiners to relax agency rules, but she was willing to help refiners if possible.

"We do have the ability to work within an overall pollution cap to ensure that public health is not adversely impacted, but provide some emergency flexibility (to refiners) if necessary," Browner said.

"Obviously if we received a petition of this sort, we would take it very, very seriously," she said. --------

98%?? wow. that's almost nonstop.

At least Washington is (very slowly) waking up.

-- lurker (lurker@lurk.lurk), April 04, 2000


lurker said:

"At least Washington is (very slowly) waking up."

Not really. Richardson has been asking for increased refinery production since early last month.

It really isn't anything new I'm afraid.

From March 10th - Richardson to meet w/Refiners;ask for ramp-up to max. output

-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here, April 05, 2000.

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