Bush pushes for new oil refineries

A dozen oil refineries along the Gulf Coast remain offline due to the hurricanes.

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush repeated his call for more oil refineries to be built in the United States, a need he said was highlighted by “tight” petroleum supplies and high energy prices caused by hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

“It ought to be clear to everybody that this country needs to build more refining capacity to be able to deal with the issues of tight supply,” Bush told reporters during a White House press conference.

A dozen oil refineries along the Gulf Coast remain offline due to the hurricanes, which has reduced gasoline production by more than 1.3 million barrels a day and daily output of distillate fuel, which includes diesel fuel and heating oil, by nearly 400,000 barrels.

“We have tight energy supplies,” Bush said. “When (hurricanes) shut down refineries, it creates a bubble in the system.”

The national retail price for gasoline jumped 12.5 cents this week to the third highest level ever and diesel fuel soared 34.6 cents to a record high because of lost supply from the shut refineries, the Energy Department said.

The latest pump price for regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.93 a gallon, up 99 cents from a year ago and not far from the record of $3.07.

The average price truckers paid for diesel fuel reached a record $3.14 a gallon, up $1.09 a from a year earlier.

While existing refineries have expanded over the years, Bush pointed out that a new refinery has not been built in the United States since the 1970s.

Bush said he will work with Congress to pass “a reasonable law” that allows current refineries to expand their oil processing capacity and also encourages building new refineries.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later this week on such legislation.

The Republican-sponsored bill aims to add 2 million barrels a day of U.S. refining capacity by offering abandoned military bases and federal land as sites for new refining plants.

The legislation would also make it easier for oil refineries to expand without having to install costly pollution fighting equipment.