Refinery issues blamed for higher gas prices

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published August 17, 2015

Even the lowest oil prices in around six years do not guarantee a cheaper August road trip in Michigan, and experts are blaming it on reports of technical problems at an Indiana refinery.

On Aug. 12, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil hovered around the $43 per barrel mark. Nevertheless, AAA Michigan reported a major recent swing in gas prices — although the state’s gas prices averaged around $2.48 per gallon Aug. 11, that increased to $2.58 per gallon Aug. 12 and to around $2.81 per gallon Aug. 13.

“The largest distillation unit at the BP Whiting refinery has experienced an unexpected shutdown that reportedly could take a month or so to fix,” an Aug. 12 AAA Michigan press release said. “While there is a lot of speculation about the extent of the damage, it is clear that the market expects this to be a problem for at least a few weeks.”

BP did not answer emailed questions by press time about the nature of the problem and how it would remedy the problem.

Susan Hiltz, AAA Michigan public affairs director, said the refinery issue is coming at an inopportune time, especially as the Labor Day weekend approaches.

“We’re in the middle of one of the heaviest driving seasons of the year,” she said. “People are doing their last-minute vacations before school starts.”

To find the best local fuel prices, Hiltz recommended using AAA’s online Fuel Price Finder.

Otherwise, to make the best of the situation, Hiltz recommends employing fuel-efficient driving tips such as using gradual acceleration, combining errands, slowing down and keeping the air filter clean.

According to AAA, drivers should also keep their tires properly inflated and use the air conditioning instead of rolling down the windows. Removing excess cargo in the trunk will make the vehicle lighter and more fuel-efficient, it said.

Andrea Bitely, director of communications at the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, said “we are aware of the gas price increase,” adding that she didn’t have an answer on whether the state had plans to take any action based on what is happening in out-of-state refineries.
She said state residents do have an option if they suspect price fixing or gouging by an individual gas station.

“We encourage them to contact the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division,” she said.

Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com. Contact the Michigan Attorney General’s Office’s Consumer Protection Division by calling (877) 765-8388.