No New Oil Refineries Since 1976
A new oil refinery has not been built in the United States since 1976. During that time, our gasoline use has increased over 25%. The nation's 149 existing refineries have been running at maximum capacity trying to meet record demand and, as a result, not only do we import oil, we actually have to import 10% of our daily gasoline from refineries overseas.
For the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world this is a ridiculous situation that will only get worse as our insatiable demand for gasoline keeps growing and refinery capacity falls further behind in the coming years. Just a few new refineries would alleviate the problem and help keep our gas prices lower and steadier.
But getting an oil refinery built is next to impossible, hence the 30-year construction drought. There will always be environmental activists who fight any new proposed refinery, regardless of where it might be located and how environmentally safe it is. And our environmental rules give them the upper hand.
Consider the example of Arizona Clean Fuels, which has been trying to build a small refinery outside Yuma for almost 10 years. It took five years just to get air-quality permits. Now they hope to be operational in 2010, 15 years after they started the project.
The opposition to building new refineries ignores the dramatic technological improvements that have been made since an oil refinery was last constructed here in 1976. New, clean refineries emit far less pollution than older refineries, with new scrubbers and design changes that dramatically reduce sulfur and other emissions. And at the same time our ability to model and map emission characteristics and distribution lets us choose the best locations for new facilities – where they will have the least possible impact on people and the environment.