The Environment & Katrina - Slick Oil Fallout

The California Air Resources Board relaxed gasoline evaporation standards Friday, enabling refineries to increase supplies. The rule will allow the sale of "wintertime" gasoline, which is usually not sold until October 31. As a result, 800 to 850 tons of hydrocarbon emissions will be added to the air daily. The action was purportedly taken to ease fuel shortages after Hurricane Katrina, however at the same time State Attorney General Lockyer is investigating whether price gouging or collusions took place on the part of gas station owners or refineries since California does not get oil from the Gulf. Although elevated prices may be reflective of decreased supplies, gas prices in California jumped to over $3 per gallon after Hurricane Katrina.

Nationwide, lobbyists are trying to eek out benefits from Hurricane Katrina and many of these also involve maneuvering around fuel shortages and elevated gas prices. Efforts are being made by airline lobbyists on several fronts, such as pressuring Congress to suspend payment of the fuel tax and asking Congress to mandate fuel surcharges for all airlines that wouldn't be included in the customers base fares. As well there is the usual push to permit drilling for oil and gas in Alaska, now intensified with increased perceptions of oil shortages.

Meanwhile, oil leaks in the gulf have caused tragic environmental consequences in some places in Louisiana. The Wall Street Journal" reports today, ("Katrina's Oily Waste") that at least six "serious" oil spills are among many that are devastating the environment. In Meraux, Lousiana, where the Murphy refinery is located, the ground is now covered with a lethal oil/mud mixture that is inches thick and seeping underground. The mixture creates a public health as well as an environmental hazard and although clean-up crews are busy vacuuming it up, the paper reports that up to 4000 houses may have to be razed because the oil is so difficult to remove.

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