March 23, 2005

Explosion in Texas

BP's largest oil refinery in Texas experienced a massive explosion this afternoon,with residents living as far away as 5 miles feeling the side effects of the explosion.

There is no word yet on the total number of fatalities, but at least 29 refinery workers were hospitalized. Say a prayer for the recovery of those injured and that the total number of fatalities is low.

There is no hint of the cause of the tragedy as of yet. I pray that it wasn't a result of a terrorist action, and find it frightening that such a speculation has to come to mind immediatly, before an investigation has even begun to be organized, but that is the reality of the times we live in.

I know it sounds crass to bring up the commercial aspects at this time, but I can't help but wonder how this incident will affect national gas prices, given that we just lost a large segment of our refining capacity. At one time we had over 150 large refineries, but due to the actions of some of the loonier environmentalist groups, that number has been brought down to around 20, with any proposed new facilities facing almost insurmountable roadblocks into ever becoming reality. This event should serve as a warning to us just how vunerable we are to relatively small scale actions in one of the most vital sectors of our economy. Putting too many vital eggs in one small basket is tantemount to societal suicide.

Posted by Delftsman3 at March 23, 2005 10:20 PM

According to most petroleum geologists, the petroleum party's over and we're hitting the downslope of the bell-curve. So why build more refineries now? We'd might as well start building fleets of whaling ships or start selling licenses to hunt dodo birds.

Posted by: Karlo at March 23, 2005 10:49 PM

We will still be relying on petroleum as a mainstay for at least the next 50 years, Karlo.

We need that capacity to keep the economic engine running, and to try to rely on a dwindling and vunerable capacity is economic suicide.
Also, a newly constructed facility will be much more environmentaly friendly than some of the outdated plants that are being held together with baling wire and a prayer.

Posted by: delftsman3 at March 23, 2005 11:09 PM

No matter what happens, petroleum prices will climb as we hit the back end of the curve (actually, it's not exactly a bell curve). Which means that in order to keep the economy expanding on the basis of fossil fuels, we'll either have to tear down every mountain in sight to extract coal (cough, cough) or grab an even greater share of the world's oil (we're already using 3 or 4 times our share). Of course, if we had real leadership, we'd be spending this time making a massive effort to wean ourselves off a rapidly disappearing resource. People have this idea that the switch to wind power and other resources will be simple. Actually, it's going to be extremely costly--especially after oil prices start to rise. I have little confidence in our politicians left and right when it comes to this issue. They all want to take us back to some romantic period in the past when women wore dresses and oil cost less than water. They could be selling snake oil for all it matters.

Posted by: Karlo at March 23, 2005 11:29 PM

I agree that we do need to start switching to alternative sources NOW Karlo, but in the meantime we have to live with the reality that we haqve an oil based economy and have to protect that during the transition period.
Oil prices WILL continue to rise, but the rate of increase could be made artificially disastrous by a relativly few and small events against the infrastructure, that could slow the transition even more than it is currently occuring. It takes MONEY to do the research, and, like it or not, that money comes from our oil based economy. As that economy falters, so does the research.

Posted by: delftsman3 at March 24, 2005 05:23 PM
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