Yesterday, Terence P. Jeffrey of CNS News reported the Presidentially-appointed board of directors of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, an agency of the federal government, authorized financing for a $2.84 billion expansion and upgrade of an oil refinery in Cartagena, Columbia. Does it strike you at all as odd that while this agency is providing financing to a foreign country to refine oil, our own country’s ability to refine oil is on the decline?
“There hasn’t been a new refinery built in the U.S. since 1976. . .” (John W. Schoen, “U.S. Refiners Stretch To Meet Demand,” MSNBC, 11/22/04)
“There are 148 operating refineries in the United States, down from 324 in 1981.” (Eleanor Stables, “H.R. 3893: Gasoline For America’s Security Act Of 2005,” CQ BillAnalysis, 10/8/05)
“Refined petroleum product imports are currently projected to grow from 7.9 percent to 10.7 percent of total refined product by 2025 to satisfy increasing demand.” (Eleanor Stables, “H.R. 3893: Gasoline For America’s Security Act Of 2005,” CQ BillAnalysis, 10/8/05)
In sum, it’s been nearly 35 years since we built a new oil refinery and in the last 30 years the number of refineries in the U.S. has decreased by 58%. At the same time we have to continue to import more and more refined petroleum products. Yet now we’re financing the expansion and upgrade of an oil refinery in a foreign country? Why, so we can import more refined petroleum products instead of refining them here at home?
This is where, once again, the need arises to examine why we are here with diminished capacity to refine oil. As you can probably guess the finger of blame is directed at Democrats.
In the last two years of Republican control of Congress, two pieces of legislation advanced through the U.S. House of Representatives. The first, H.R. 3893, called for a streamlined process to expand and build new oil refineries. The second, H.R. 5254, also streamlined the process for building new oil refineries on closed military bases.
Oil Refinery Construction – Passage. “Passage of the bill that would allow state governors to opt into a streamlined regulatory process for refinery expansion and construction projects. It would require the president to designate federal sites for new oil refineries and allow the federal government to pay new refineries for the costs of significant delays due to lawsuits and government regulations. Price gouging on gasoline would be banned in times of emergencies. The bill also would direct the Federal Trade Commission to investigate price gouging after Hurricane Katrina. It would specify that the federal government could provide loan guarantees for the Alaska natural gas pipeline up to two years after enactment, unless the state of Alaska has a contractual agreement to complete construction of the pipeline.” (H.R. 3893, Vote #519: Passed 212-210: R 212-13; D 0-196; I 0-1; 10/7/05)
Refinery Permit Process – Passage. “Passage of the bill that would streamline the application process for companies to build refineries in the United States. The president would designate new sites suitable for oil refineries, including at least three sites on closed military bases. The EPA would provide financial assistance to states to facilitate applications for refineries. A new federal coordinator, appointed by the president, would be in charge of every federal refinery authorization.” (H.R. 5254, Vote #232: Passed 238-179: R 221-2; D 17-176; I 0-1, 6/7/06)
Both pieces of legislation passed the House despite stiff opposition by Democrats. How stiff? No Democrat voted for the first piece of legislation and only 17 voted in favor of the second. Neither of these items ever received a vote in the Senate where Democrats promised to block the expansion and construction of oil refineries.
That last time the Senate took up a measure to at least expand oil refineries? 2007. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) added an amendment to the Democrat’s so-called “energy policy” that called for expediting the permitting process for expanding “refinery facilities.” Predictably, Senator Inhofe’s amendment was rejected as not one single Democrat voted in favor.
Energy Policy – Refineries Expansion. “Inhofe, R-Okla., amendment no. 1505 to the Reid substitute amendment no. 1502. The Inhofe amendment would expedite the permitting process for the expansion of refinery facilities and authorize funds for the development of coal-to-liquid and cellulosic biomass fuels. The substitute would overhaul national energy policies including requiring the annual use of 15 billion gallons of biofuels by 2015, increasing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 and making petroleum price gouging in a ‘national energy emergency’ a federal crime. It also would encourage carbon sequestration research, require the federal government to purchase 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and direct the State Department to pursue strategic partnerships with major energy-consuming and energy-producing nations.” (H.R. 6, Vote #210: Rejected 43-52: D 0-48; R 43-2; I 0-2; 6/13/07)
Is President Barack Obama and his Party at all serious about energy policy in this country? Apparently, the answer is no, but they sure do care about Columbia and Brazil.