Gasoline Shortages in Southern California

Posted by on Oct 6, 2012

Refinery problems in Southern California have resulted in surging prices and long lines at some gasoline stations. Photo: Gary Kazanjian, Associated Press.

A series of disruptions in petroleum refineries in Southern California has resulted in surging gasoline prices in recent days and spot shortages.

A New York Times article Saturday morning (10/6/12) described makeshift signs at gas stations that had run out of gasoline altogether and prices that had spiked by as much as 20 cents per gallon overnight at others. Already, California gasoline prices were the highest in the nation: an average of $4.49 per gallon, 70¢ above the national average.

The problems resulted from an August 6th fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California that produces 245,000 gallons of gasoline per day. Then there was a power outage last Monday at ExxonMobil’s Torrance, California refinery, which produces 195,000 gallons of gasoline per day.

While both refineries were coming back to normal, the perturbations were enough to disrupt the flow the our lifeblood gasoline.

From a resilience standpoint, this illustrates the inherent vulnerabilities in our fuel system. Just-in-time production and delivery makes for wonderful economic efficiencies, but it means that seemingly modest hiccups can result in significant interruptions. That’s a point made in a book I’m currently reading: Resilience Thinking by Brian Walter and David Salt.

Residents in the LA area who can walk to a local store, ride a bike to the bookstore today, or take public transit to work will find themselves at a distinct advantage today as they avoid the gas lines and dramatic price increase. And a new homeowner who has to drive 40 minutes from the outer suburbs for just about anything just might be questioning why he or she opted for that tract home so far away over the infill house in a walkable town center.

It makes one think….

Along with founding the Resilient Design Institute in 2012, Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed.

One Comment

  1. Similar to our electric grid where a disruption at a single power plant is felt throughout a metropolitan area. Pursuing various alternative energy options and different delivery systems makes for a resilient design


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