In recent days, we've heard about a couple of refineries having some setbacks and other problems. Marathon's 522,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Garyville, La., had a delay in getting one of its crude distillation units up and running and there was a fire at Chevron's Pascagoula, Miss., refinery that killed one worker. That refinery has a capacity of 330,000 bpd. There was also a Chevron pipeline explosion in Milford, Texas.
Of course, such events could occur at any time. We have aging infrastructure. But when a group of refineries in the same region has significant problems, that's when reporters on the six o'clock news start talking about rising gas prices. They want to know how bad things might get.
So it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. The national average price of gas today is about 25 cents less than what it was a year ago. And if you're in the New York metro area, the average price you pay for gas today could be about 60 cents less than what you paid a year ago.
Last year, the northeast was pounded by Hurricane Sandy in early November. Some refineries were flooded, lost power and severely damaged. Hundreds of gas stations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lost power and many retailers were unable to pump the gas they had. Supply plummeted and demand grew. Of course, retail prices spiked and things were so bad that police were often needed to maintain the peace and calm hostile consumers standing in line with just a gas can in hand.
When spring arrived, we were greeted with ominous forecasts from weather experts who told us 2013 would deliver "above average hurricane activity." Remember hearing that? Fortunately, they were dead wrong. Instead we got what Reuters said was "a big washout, marking the first time in 45 years that the strongest storm to form was just a minor Category 1 hurricane."
So for many reasons this Thanksgiving season, we should be grateful. While there are many areas where we'd welcome improvement, when you look at gasoline prices as an economic bellweather of sorts, we know that prices all across the country are lower.
Domestic energy production is booming and we're gaining more access to lower cost crude. And with these developments we can say that American energy autonomy is becoming a reachable achievement.
Gregg Laskoski is a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com.