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There Are Worse Things Than the Weather

Public Policy

And we’d better get ready for them Gasoline prices are falling, but you can’t buy the stuff. In the wake of one hurricane and in the face of another, the price of gasoline — as measured by gasoline futures — declined last week, even as the U.S. gasoline inventory was drawn down. You’d think that gasoline prices should be spiking, but spontaneous orders are sometimes counterintuitive: Hurricane Harvey temporarily shut down a significant portion of the nation’s oil refineries, reducing the demand for crude and resulting in slightly lower oil prices. But our refineries are pretty robust, and investors have calculated that the temporary reduction in refining capacity will be reversed quickly, with that fuller productivity coming back online just as the high-demand summer driving season comes to an end — and as what economists forthrightly call “demand destruction” lowers consumption of gasoline in the storm-ravaged coastal regions of Texas and Florida. And so the price of gasoline futures, which are essentially bets on the future price of gasoline, have declined. That’s the future. In the present, it’s damned hard to get a gallon of gasoline in parts of Florida, which is a problem for Floridians looking to high-tail it up the northbound lanes out of the path of Hurricane Irma.

Why? Powered by Between 2007 and 2014, Florida’s daily gasoline consumption shrank significantly — by about 90,000 barrels. In 2012, two Caribbean refineries that had supplied Florida with a significant share of its gasoline were idled, leaving Florida more dependent upon refineries located along the Gulf Coast. That’s all well and good when the weather is fair, but Hurricane Harvey disrupted things. For one thing, it forced the shutdown of several refineries in the Houston area. For another, it made navigating the Gulf of Mexico treacherous — you don’t want to sail an oil barge into a hurricane. And there is no gasoline pipeline connecting those Gulf Coast refineries to Florida: that trade is conducted by boat. Pipelines are the cheapest and safest way to move petroleum products from producers to consumers, but America’s fanatical environmentalists, who oppose the development of new energy infrastructure categorically, have been remarkably successful in blocking or delaying the development of new pipelines, as well as other projects, such as coal-export terminals connecting U.S. producers to Asian markets. We have plenty of gasoline, and it’s cheap. But we are having a hard time getting it to Florida. Florida’s very capable governor, Rick Scott, has seen to it that Florida’s ports remain open as long as operating them is safe, and he has secured some regulatory relief for truckers bringing in fuel and emergency supplies. Because Americans are a creative and enterprising people, someone already has developed a useful app directing consumers to well-stocked filling stations, but there are shortages and long lines.

After Harvey, disruption to the gasoline supply from Houston to north Texas sent consumer gasoline prices soaring above $5 a gallon in parts of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, and above $8 at one station in suburban Garland. But things returned to normal fairly quickly. And things probably will return to normal in Florida fairly quickly, too. But we should not be complacent: Unlike earthquakes and terrorist attacks and the North Koreans, hurricanes are predictable. We get a few days’ warning and time to prepare for them, which makes them a pretty good test of our national readiness for different kinds of stresses and disruptions. Harvey provided an excellent reminder that Texas has the good luck to be full of Texans, and while Florida Man, that infamous character, will no doubt make his appearance during Irma, Florida is a well-governed state with excellent resources and long experience in weathering the weather. Unlike earthquakes and terrorist attacks and the North Koreans, hurricanes are predictable. Still, would be nice to have some gas. Florida is not connected to Texas by a gasoline pipeline, but the large urban centers of the Northeast are, and Harvey temporarily cut them off, forcing the closure of the Colonial pipeline, which carries gasoline as well as heating oil and aviation fuel to New York City and beyond. Colonial and 20-odd refineries supplying it were closed out of an abundance of caution, which is of course what’s wanted when dealing with such volatile substances as gasoline and avgas. Colonial was reopened on Tuesday, much to the relief of our Yankee friends. But what if it weren’t? Fossil fuels are very much a part of the old economy. Oil producers and refiners do not enjoy the digital world’s capacity for rerouting their product instantaneously in response to changing conditions. Refineries are big and sprawling, and pipelines are right where they are and nowhere else. Sure, we can put fuel on boats, trucks, and trains, but many of the circumstances that would disrupt the pipelines would also threaten to disrupt highway traffic, the railroads, or the functioning of our ports. And there are only so many tanker trucks and oil barges: One of the reasons why Florida’s gasoline market is so tight is that the fleet serving its markets is not very large and enjoys relatively little surplus capacity. If not exactly fragile, these systems certainly are not what Nassim Nicholas Taleb would call “antifragile,” and it surely has occurred to the generals in Pyongyang and the ayatollahs in Iran that there are ways to disrupt them well short of something so dramatic as a nuclear weapon. But there are nuclear weapons in the world, too.

There are complex questions involved in this, but where the energy infrastructure is concerned, there is one fairly obvious solution: more. More pipelines, more refineries, more generating capacity, more nuclear plants, more production. This is not a call for a gigantic federal infrastructure project or a five-year plan. It is a call to let markets work. The United States is blessed with enormous stores of oil, natural gas, coal, and other energy resources, but we do not make nearly as extensive or efficient use of them as we could. The Trump administration, especially EPA chief Scott Pruitt, deserves some credit for taking baby steps in the right direction, for example by approving the Keystone XL pipeline. But there is much more to be done, from building pipelines to splitting uranium atoms, and the regulatory apparatus remains a critical obstacle. Can we handle a couple of hurricanes? Sure. But the world contains uglier truths and wilder dangers — and the world knows where we live. In 2001, 19 misfits with box-cutters changed the course of world history and showed us that we were by no means prepared for the future — or even for the here and now. A little bit of weather can seriously disrupt Americans’ ability to provide themselves with food, fuel, and the other necessities of life. There are worse things than the weather, and we’d better get ready for them.

National Review

22 Comments on "There Are Worse Things Than the Weather"

  1. baha on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 5:21 am 

    That’s what we need more, More, MORE…

    The world is full of idiots.

  2. pointer on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 7:49 am 

    Delusional on so many levels.

  3. Sissyfuss on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 8:45 am 

    Hansen is doing an update on his book, “Storms of My Grandchildren.” It’s called ” Storms of My Older Son Living In The Basement.”

  4. Davy on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 9:07 am 

    see Irma in 10 sec race across the oceans and seas

  5. Dredd on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 11:32 am 

    “There Are Worse Things Than the Weather” – National Review

    The National Review for example (The Damaged Global Climate System – 7).

  6. rockman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 12:44 pm 

    The shut down of refineries in the Houston area did not cause gasoline shortages anywhere: north Texas or Florida. The problem was the inability for local fuel depots to make deliveries fast enough to stations. Stations that sold as much in 1 or 2 days as they normally would in 10+ days. And that big jump in demand that caused prices to increase.

    In fact the refinery shut downs in Houston didn’t result in a shortage here: just 2 days after Harvey left us one large local fuel depot (in one of the partially flooded areas) was sending out 700 tank trucks delivering 3 million gallons of gasoline every 24 hours. The Rockman, living across the highway from the giant ExxonMobil refinery that remains shut down, has not seen a single station closed in his area. And that includes the ExxonMobil gas stations.

    The US fossil fuel infrastructure is not as insecure as the picture this article tries to paint. With one exception: local distribution systems. And that will not change: the industry in not going to spend $BILLIONS on infrastructure that will just sit there waiting to be utilized every 10 to 20+ years.

  7. Cloggie on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 1:07 pm 

    Dutch 20:00 news: not as bad as expected, confirmed by Florida locals.

    Jacksonville floading and heavy rain.

  8. pointer on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 1:14 pm 

    There are worse things than the weather, but I would not say the same about the climate consequences of BAU.

  9. pointer on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 1:15 pm 

    Can you imagine Floridians evacuating by EVs?

  10. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 2:00 pm 

    More conservatard cunts downplaying.

    “There are worse things than the weather”

    The depths of their criminality, recklessness are unmatched in history.

    It’s just more denial. They either refuse or cannot let go of their dysfunctional and suicidal ideology. Well, worst than suicidal since they will drag everyone else down with them. Murderous ideology.

    Irma Won’t “Wake Up” Climate Change-Denying Republicans. Their Whole Ideology Is on the Line.

    Their ideology and everyone homes, business and lives.

  11. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 2:05 pm 

    Here is some ‘weather’ on the way. Of course it’s AGW Jacked weather. AGW Jacking is like putting a mixed martial artist champion on steroids and methamphetamine and letting him loose on the public. He gonna smash grandma and the kids in the face.

    No Rest for the Hurricane-Weary: Jose a Potential East Coast Threat

  12. JJHMAN on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 2:21 pm 

    “Can you imagine Floridians evacuating by EVs?” Let us imagine:

    -First of all it’s pretty quiet. No idling IC engines and wasted fuel when the traffic is stopped.

    -No panic at the gas stations. Fill up at home the night before.

    -Flooded refineries? Not my problem.

  13. Davy on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 3:32 pm 

    What about when the power is out? Things will be quiet too.

  14. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 5:42 pm 

    Flood waters in Jacksonville, Florida are at their highest ever because of Hurricane Irma

    ” Hurricane Irma has set a new flood record in northeastern Florida, the National Weather Service said Monday morning.

    Floods reached 5.03 feet (60.4 inches) in Jacksonville, Florida on Monday, surpassing the previous record set by Hurricane Dora, which left 4.1 feet (49 inches) of water in the city in 1964.”

    If your house gets destroyed, oh well, it’s just weather.

  15. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 5:45 pm 

    Charleston Faces ‘Life-Threatening’ Flash Flooding From Hurricane Irma

  16. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 7:07 pm 

    What’s worse than weather? Having to pay for it again & again. An ever growing expense.

    Damage from Hurricane Irma, Harvey Add to Growing Costs for Taxpayers

    Government watchdogs have been warning about the financial risks of climate change, from extreme storms to wildfires, and their impact on the U.S. budget.

    “The hurricanes’ successive blows may cost taxpayers more than they spent on relief and recovery in any previous year. And that doesn’t factor in the price for this year’s other disasters—heat waves, droughts, fires and floods—that are among the hallmarks of global warming.

    “The magnitude of the damage is getting bigger,” said Adam Rose, a research professor with the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy and an expert in the economics of natural disasters. “What does it mean for the federal treasury? It means we’re likely to see a greater burden on federal and state governments to help people. You can’t just leave people who’ve suffered a disaster. You can’t abandon them.”

    For the past decade, the government’s fiscal watchdogs have warned that these costs were bound to increase as the effects of climate change arrive.”

  17. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 8:08 pm 

    The Heat Is On: How Climate Change Is Making Western Wildfires Worse

    Let’s look at the other set of natural disasters that is being exacerbated by climate change

    “Major wildfires are burning in British Columbia in western Canada and in at least nine states throughout the American West: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. California, Montana, and Oregon are bearing the worst of it. So far in 2017, more than 8 million acres have burned. More than 26,000 firefighters are working on controlling the roughly 80 major fires still burning. Homes are being evacuated or burned to the ground. It often rains in Seattle; it does not, however, usually rain ash.

    The state of Montana is being described as a fiery apocalypse. Wildfires have been burning for months across the western half of the state, over 1 million acres have burned, and two firefighters have died. Gov. Steve Bullock has declared a statewide fire disaster, having already declared state fire emergencies in July and August. Bullock has deployed the Montana National Guard as firefighters. “Montana is in one of the worst fire seasons in modern history and on its way to becoming the most expensive,” he said in his declaration.

    The smoke has gotten so bad that it is causing health problems. In the worst-hit areas, people with respiratory illnesses and heart conditions are being advised not to go outside. Residents are forced to cover their mouths and noses with scarves and masks to avoid breathing in smoke and ash. In Montana, the state’s Dept. of Environmental Quality warned of “unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality and advised all people in western Montana to avoid prolonged outdoor exposure. Parts of the state are described as having air quality as bad as Beijing’s. Even if you live elsewhere, you can still be affected: The amount of smoke is great enough that it’s drifting across the rest of the country.”

    What do the denier-killers at the National Review have to say about the AGW Jacked fires? Perhaps they should hire clog on at team denial so he can throw up links of big fires back in 1867 as proof that AGW is a hoax. The bar is really low and it don’t take much for the true believers clinging to their dying ideology to swallow up any shit sandwich, counter argument served up.

    Whoever thought DOOMING would be so much fun?

  18. Bloomer on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 8:56 pm 

    And yes Virgina..the free market will solve all the world problems. This article brought to you from the climate deniers think tank society of dirt bags.

  19. pointer on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 11:05 pm 

    Ah, JJHMAN, so naive about human nature and the reality of EVs…

    -First of all it’s pretty quiet. Especially the EVs that have run out of battery. Won’t be the case with the people in the EVs, however.

    -No panic at the gas stations. Fill up at home the night before. Instead the panic will be at the charging stations, along with EV-owner-on-EV-owner assault after the overnight charge is depleted.

    -Flooded refineries? Of course, of course, not your problem. Your problems will be: Finding a charging station as your battery is running low. Discovering the charging station is out of order. Finding another charging station, while hoping you still have enough charge to get there. Discovering there are dozens of other EVs in line ahead of you. Facing the reality that, in the best case, each EV takes at least 20 minutes to charge. Level 2 only? Make that four hours. Facing the reality that everyone is just hanging out, totally relaxed, congenially chatting with fellow drivers or spouse or kids while waiting for their turn to charge; no stress at all as a major life-threatening weather event is closing in, and some guy in a Tesla cuts in line. No problems? Yeah, right. Just take into account what goes on during regular long car trips with your wife and kids, and then jack that with AGW.

    And I speak as an EV owner, and one who has done a number of long trips with the wife and kids.

    Oh, and here’s a cheery thought:

    “Today there are well over 1.3 million law-abiding Floridians with a valid concealed weapons permit, 1.3 million. That’s the most in the nation — nearly double that of the second state, which is Texas. Sorry, Gov. Perry.”

    Yep, Florida does have 1,384,756 million concealed weapon permit holders as of March 2015.


  20. Apneaman on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 11:33 pm 

    pointer, apparently a number of the 1.3 million concealed weapon permit holders and some others are highly confused about “stand your ground”.

    I can see the guy explaining it to the judge…..

    “duh…well your honor, I wuz, like, feeling, like, threatened by that there hurricane Irma and wuz just standing my ground N stuff”

    Florida sheriff warns residents not to shoot at Hurricane Irma: ‘You won’t make it turn around’

    The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office tells Floridians not to fire weapons at Hurricane Irma after a social media page advocating shooting the storm went viral.

    “DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma. You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects,” the office posted on Twitter.

    It’s another case of ‘only in America’.

  21. makati1 on Mon, 11th Sep 2017 11:36 pm 

    “Daimler Hints That Electric-Vehicle Sales Would Collapse Without Subsidies”

    Subsidies all the way from the mines to the final owner.

    BTW: I wonder how many Floridian EV owners can “fill” up” at home when there is no electric…or home? Just asking. LOL

  22. Dredd on Tue, 12th Sep 2017 5:34 am 

    “There Are Worse Things Than the Weather”

    Yep, next year’s weather for example (On Thermal Expansion &Thermal Contraction – 22).

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