AFPM President and CEO Chet Thompson and API President and CEO Mike Sommers sent a letter to President Biden responding to recent letters the Administration sent to major U.S. fuel refiners suggesting that these companies, their workforces and facilities throughout the country aren’t doing their part to bring fuel to the market and lower energy costs for consumers.
We are surprised and disappointed by the President’s letter. Any suggestion that U.S. refiners are not doing our part to bring stability to the market is false. We would encourage the Administration to look inward to better understand the role their policies and hostile rhetoric have played in the current environment.
The United States has the most complex and efficient refining industry in the world, but we also have less refining capacity than we used to. Where the issue of refining capacity is concerned, it’s important to understand what refining capacity is, why we’ve lost capacity in the United States and how policies can advance the competitiveness of our refineries in the global market.
Oil markets are famously sensitive to uncertainty. Global conflict can send prices higher on concerns that crude oil supplies could be disrupted. This is playing out in response to Russia’s unprovoked acts of war against Ukraine. Russia is a major supplier of crude oil and other energy products globally, though less so in the United States. In recent days, many market participants have committed to stop purchasing Russian oil. Shipping companies are concerned about loading cargoes from Russia and some shippers are finding the cost associated with such cargoes too high. These moves are tightening an already tight market.
SPR releases cannot be the center of this Administration’s strategy to confront inflation and high energy prices. At best, SPR releases are a short-term fix, they are not a solution. Stability and certainty is what global crude oil markets crave.
The U.S. refining industry is the most competitive in the world, which is a benefit to American households. Our complex facilities are uniquely suited to handle difficult-to-refine crude oil and other petroleum feedstocks that refineries elsewhere cannot process. This creates competitive advantage. At the same time, the United States is able to sell some of our higher-quality crude to countries that need it. This combination is powerful.
AFPM supports the people of Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked acts of war. These acts of aggression are unacceptable and should be met with fierce opposition. AFPM fully supports the suspension of all future purchases of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia. To protect consumers, however, any import prohibition should exempt products currently in transit to the United States.
Russian crude oil accounts for just three percent of U.S. crude oil imports and about one percent of total crude oil processed by U.S. refineries. Even still, Russian crude oil imports are important to refineries on the West Coast and Gulf Coast for some distinct reasons. Read more on this topic from AFPM’s industry analysts in their recent assessment: “U.S. Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products from Russia.”
Limiting California’s access to the exact types of crude oil its facilities need will only increase prices for the state’s consumers and travelers. Drivers are already dealing with gasoline prices in excess of $5 per gallon and the highest fuel taxes of the 50 states. Confining energy producers and consumers to a smaller pool of crude oil will make a very sensitive price environment that much worse.