Monday, September 05, 2005

Good News on the Oil Front

While the NY markets were closed for the holiday today, crude oil prices fell to pre-Katrina levels.


Eight major refineries that produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and heating oil were knocked out of commission and the output at two others was cut by last week's killer hurricane and the flooding that followed. That cut overall U.S. refining capacity by more than 10 percent and contributed to a surge in retail gasoline prices and spot shortages around the country.

Motiva Enterprises LLC, Marathon Oil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. said that they hope to restart, and in some cases make fully operational, four of those refineries this week.

Motiva, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Saudi Refining Inc., said its Convent, La., refinery restarted on Sunday and its refinery in Norco, La., is expected to get started by mid-week. Both are located west of New Orleans.

Marathon said over the weekend that its Garyville, La., refinery west of New Orleans should be fully operational early this week. Valero said it's still hoping to restart this week its St. Charles refinery about 15 miles from New Orleans.

When running at 100 percent capacity, these four represent slightly more than 1 million barrels of refined oil product a day.

In contrast, Chevron Corp.'s 325,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Pascagoula, Miss., and ConocoPhillips' 247,000 barrel-a-day facility in Belle Chasse, La., south of New Orleans have suffered major damage and are unlikely to resume production for some time, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The ConocoPhillips facility, along with Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Chalmette, La., refinery and Murphy Oil Corp.'s facility in Meraux, La., also have no power. They represent nearly 690,000 barrels a day of refined oil products.

But industry experts say that even after power is restored, restarting an oil refinery is a tricky and time-consuming process. Crews must be meticulous with repeated inspections, checking and rechecking for leaks. They must also ensure that all saltwater has been cleared or risk igniting a fire.

There are also work force issues. With communication lines either down or overloaded, many companies have not been able to locate displaced employees.

Last week Shell Oil and Valero spoke out about efforts to locate and assist employees. In some cases, it may require providing shelter near the refineries.

Valero estimated that almost 1,000 of its employees may have been affected by the storm, including 550 at its St. Charles refinery, scheduled to restart by week's end.

On Monday afternoon, the company said it had heard from all but nine of its employees from the St. Charles work force. The company has set up a large air-conditioned tent equipped with a catering operation, according to Valero spokeswoman Mary Rose Brown.

Additionally, the company has also dispatched 50 mobile homes to St. Charles for workers who may need temporary housing.

"It appears a lot of our employees probably lost their homes," Valero Chief Executive Bill Greehey told employees last week at the company's San Antonio, Texas, headquarters. "Rest assured, we are going to take care of our employees. Whatever financial help they need, they will be taken care of by Valero."

Cal Hodges, an Houston-based energy consultant, said companies may need to recruit retired workers for stopgap help. "We need to get the workers back, but we may need to be creative, too, in getting people to the refineries," Hodges said. "That's one way to do it."

Refineries also will receive a boost from the Department of Energy, which agreed to lend oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. ExxonMobil, Valero, Placid Refining Co. LLC, BP PLC, Marathon and Total SA will collectively receive 12.6 millions barrels of oil.

More is available. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman offered 30 million to be provided beginning Tuesday. The reserve supply, however, must be replenished by the companies once conditions return to normal.

The Gulf of Mexico normally produces 1.5 million barrels of crude oil a day, or about a quarter of the United States' domestic output, according to the U.S. Mineral Management Service.

The agency on Monday afternoon reported that about 70 percent of oil production remains shut in.

Other developments critical to the Gulf's recovery include:

_ The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the nation's largest oil import terminal, has been unloading tankers, operating at about 75 percent capacity. It may hit full capacity this week.

_ Colonial Pipeline Co., which transports refined products from Houston to as far away as the Northeast, is operating at 76 percent capacity, up 3 percent from its weekend report.

_ Kinder Morgan Energy Partners' Plantation Pipe Line Co., which transports fuel from refineries to Eastern markets, has been capable of full capacity operations once it receives fuel from downed refineries.

_ Shell Pipeline Co.'s Capline pipeline system, which transport crude oil into the Midwest, is operating at approximately 40,000 barrels per hour; the normal rate is 45,000 barrels per hour.
Sluggish Government?

There have been complaints that the Federal Government has been sluggish in responding to the needs of hurricane ravished Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. I know that GWB declared the area a disaster area before (Sunday?) Katrina made landfall on Monday so that there would be no delay in FEMA responding.

GWB was on vacation in Crawford and waited for two days after the storm before returning to Washington. I didn't know that when he went to Crawford he was completely cut off from the rest of the world. Well, shoot! That 'splains it all. He's on vacation, didn't turn on the TV (he probably thinks there are teeny tiny people living inside it waiting to talk to him), and of course, he's too stupid to read the newspapers. And there were no reporters within a hundred miles to tell him about the hurricane. He didn't meet with Cindy Sheehan because he didn't know she was out there waiting! He left Karl Rove in charge in Washington and everybody knows that Karl wanted NO destroyed so that Halliburton could come in a make a killing on rebuilding. Or maybe he was in on the plan with Rove to destroy NO and Louisiana. You know that he personally caused Katrina to hit the Gulf Coast, don't you?

My question is, why didn't GWB rush right to NO and stick his finger in the break in the levee? Surely that's all that was needed. And what a photo op!

Governor Blanco of Louisiana refused to turn over the National Guard to Federal jurisidiction. I can sure understand why Blanco doesn't want to ask for help. Louisiana and New Orleans authorities have done such an outstanding job of handling the recovery operations. Oh, and don't forget the marvelous job they did of evacuating people from the area. There were hundreds of buses lined up waiting to ..... oh, wait. No, they were parked in a parking lot that is now under water. Well, Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency prior She didn't.

Then there's the mayor. He ordered the buses to evacu...oh...those are the buses that are now under water. Why didn't someone write a disaster plan to use in the event of a storm or other disaster. Oh, you say there was a disaster plan in place?

The hard-working, dedicated police department of New Orleans stayed on duty hours on end to protect .... oh, wait. I've heard that many of the NOPD quit, walked off the job, or just stayed home to protect their own property. I've also heard that NOPD officers were involved in some of the looting and other crimes that took place. But...that couldn't be, could it? Isn't the NOPD known for their integrity and dedication to duty?

Like I said. An outstanding job of preparation and recovery.

Update: here's a link to the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan
This is Certainly an Interesting Turn of Events

Perhaps this is what GWB had in mind all along: to nominate Roberts as Chief Justice on the retirement or death of Justice Rehnquist. It just happened earlier than expected.

My thought: if Roberts is qualified to be an Associate Justice, and from what I've heard he is, he should be qualified to be Chief Justice. I personally think that the replacement should be a sitting Justice, but then, I'm not the one making the nomination.

Since Roberts is now the Rehnquist replacement nominee, who will GWB nominate to replace O'Connor?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Donations to the Katrina Relief Fund

My sidebar contains links to Amazon and other online sites. Any purchases made through these links will generate a small payment to me. Through the end of September, any money I make through these links will be donated to the Katrina relife fund.

You buy stuff anyway. How about buying through these links and make a donation at the same time?
Who Will Replace Rehnquist?

That has to be the question of the day in Washington. I would think that it would make sense to nominate a current sitting Supreme Court Justice to the Chief Justice's seat, but I'm not sure that's a requirement. So for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that will be a given.

I'm not really up on the political leanings of the Court. Sue me, I think it's the job of the Court to interpret the Constitution and the law of the land, not legislate from the bench. So my benchmark (not to make a pun at all) will be their age and the length of time they could serve as Chief Justice. Years that can be served, are of course, plus or minus. I don't know their health or personal choices. O'Connor chose to retire from the Court. Others could do the same, or live well past what most people would consider a long life.

Justice Stevens is 85 and has served for 30 years.

Kennedy and Scalia are both 83. Kennedy has served 17 years and Souter 19.

All three are older than Rehnquist, so for that reason, I think they are out of contention. While any could outlive the other justices, the cards are against them to serve many more years due to age alone. I personally look for retirements (or even death) within Bush's remaining term.

Ginsburg is next at 72. She has served 12 years. Possible, but age and the fact that she's a woman are against her. And she is a liberal. Face it. While Bush isn't above nominating a woman to the bench, it won't be a liberal and especially not to the High Seat.

Souter is 66 and has served for 15 years. Could serve another 20 years. Possible nomination.

Breyer is 65 and has served for 11 years. Could serve another 20 years. Possible nomination.

Thomas is 57 and has served for 14 years.

Age being the only consideration, I'd put Thomas at the top of the heap. Of the current justices, he is the youngest and has three things going for him. One, being 57 he can serve on (and influence) the Court for another 30 years. Two, he's conservative, and three, he's black. His skin color shouldn't make a difference, but it will. How good will it look for Bush to nominate a black conservative to the High Seat? How could the liberals and/or Democrats really fight Thomas' nomination? Only on the grounds that he's conservative. Although there will be some who will say that a Thomas nomination is because he's black, not because he's qualified and just happens to be black.

I have two polls on the sidebar. One is about a Rehnquist replacement. The other who will replace the Justice nominated to replace Rehnquist. They appear randomly, so I hope you'll come back and vote in each one.