The Corpus Callosum

Ike Spike

As noted
on Dynamics of Cats, The Oil Drum
has some details about loss of production of oil, natural gas, and
refined oil products, due to hurricanes Ike and
 (They’ve been updated since the link first went up, so you
might want to check them again.)

Perhaps more importantly, they also have a post that contains an
analysis of the implications for the supply of fuel (gasoline, diesel,
and jet fuel).

of a Ten Day Refinery Outage

Posted by Gail the Actuary on September 13, 2008 – 6:21pm

Where is our gasoline and diesel supply headed? Even before
Ike hit,
quite a few areas of the US were starting to see gasoline shortages.
The impact of Ike can only make shortages worse.
Most likely,
it will
take refineries at least a week or two to get production back to normal
levels after a storm of this type, considering the impacts of
electrical outages and flooding. In this article, I will examine some
of the issues that seem to be involved. Based on my analysis, fuel
supply shortages are likely to last well into October, and are likely
to get considerably worse before they get better… [emphasis added]

One of her main points is that we are likely to get a preview of the
eventual impacts of peak oil.

Even though she does not yet know how much down time there will be due
to Ike, she provides enough background information to show how this is
likely to play out.  The big question — which cannot be
answered yet — it how long this will go on.  

My suggestion: whatever you do to adapt to the shortages, please keep
doing that, even after the shortages are
alleviated.  There will be a spike in shortages after Ike.
 Then things will seem to return to normal.  But it
is not really a spike; it’s a preview.

People who ought to understand this, often do not.  I was
reminded of this when I was trying to learn more about the damage to
the energy infrastructure, and read this:

Forces Shutdown of 19% of U.S. Refining Capacity

By Jordan Burke and Aaron Clark

…Gasoline shortages may occur across the southern U.S. up to
Washington because of the closures caused by Hurricane Gustav,
which made landfall Sept. 1 in Louisiana, and now Ike, Kevin
, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and
reliability at the U.S. Department of Energy, said on a
conference call yesterday.

“We expect to see constrained supplies of refined
products,” he said.  “The administration will utilize every
at our disposal to lessen the likelihood of limited fuel
supplies,” including tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.”…

Opening the SPR might be called for, eventually, but it misses the
point.  The most acute problems will be caused by loss of
refining capacity, not a shortage of crude oil.  The
government is helpless in the face of a sudden loss of refining
capacity.  In the face of inadequate refining capacity, it
will not help to provide oil from the SPR.  Really, the only
thing to do, would be to try to import a greater quantity of refined
oil products.  That would be an enormously expensive
proposition, and it may not be possible.  The capacity to move
vast quantities of such products is limited, and it cannot be ramped up

Theoretically, they could mandate the construction of more refineries.
 But, for one thing, that will never happen.  Plus,
it would not help anytime in the next few weeks or months.

I suspect that Kolevar mentioned the SPR because he wanted to say
something reassuring.  But it is not reassuring to hear
statements that imply that an important government official fails to
understand the problem.