Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gasoline Prices

Gasoline prices continue to hover at or above the $3.00/gal. level and crude oil prices remain in the $70-75/bbl. for sweet crude, yet motorists don't seem to have backed off from taking to the road. Prices at the pump vary with more than crude prices, however, and it's other factors that are influencing prices now. One is refinery "turnarounds" which occur about every 12- 18 months in the life of a typical refinery. During turnaround periods, repairs are made and "bottleneck removal" projects are carried out. These latter are usually aimed at increasing production and/or improving the quality of products. A related factor is the number of refineries still in business which is far fewer today than at their peak. Oil companies have shied away from building new refineries because of their high cost and the counter productive activities of enviromental extremist groups who are, in most cases, the same people who have opposed nuclear power plants. This means that equipment in existing refineries has aged and is requiring more frequent maintenance and replacement equipment. The situation leads to tight supplies and upward pressure on prices at the pump.

Fuel Consumption

Motorists can help the situation by consuming less fuel but they won't do it if everyone continues their current driving habits. Those who commute to and from work, school or other activities by themselves should ctart carpooling. In this area of Florida, for example, many workers commute to cities south of us in Palm Beach County, Broward County and even further south into Miami-Dade County. The typical such commute might be a 120 mile round trip and an expenditure of 5 gallons of gasoline with one person in the car. Put a second person in the mix and the consumption per person drops to 2.5 gallons; a third person drops it to 1.67 gallons and so on. Clearly, carpooling saves both fuel and money.

Other ways to cut fuel consumption include maintaining tire pressure at manufacturer's recommended levels; avoidance of quick stops and rapid acceleration; and maintaining a properly tuned engine.


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