An explosion and fire at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance Wednesday could mean bad news for motorists who may wind up paying a higher price at the pump.
The explosion “most likely will contribute to upward pressure on (gas) prices,” Marie Montgomery of the Automobile Club of Southern California told City News Service.
“If there is extensive damage that results in a longer-term closure, obviously that (would) have a bigger impact.” Montgomery said.
She said the refinery is the sixth-largest in the state, “so a long- term loss of production would be pretty serious.”
The explosion ironically occurred on the same day a Santa Monica-based consumer-advocacy group called on state officials to investigate a recent shutdown of the refinery, and an earlier shutdown of a Tesoro refinery in the Bay Area, to see if they were necessary or were part of an effort to manipulate gas prices.
According to Consumer Watchdog officials, the two refineries produce 16 percent of the state’s gasoline. The group sent letters to Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and legislative officials asking that inspectors be sent to the refineries “to ascertain if they are telling the truth.”
“We also urgently need legislation ensuring independent, on-site refinery investigations whenever a shutdown occurs in order to assure the public that outages are justified,” Liza Tucker and Cody Rosenfield of Consumer Watchdog wrote in the letters.
ExxonMobil officials had no immediate response to the group’s action.
According to Consumer Watchdog, the Tesoro refinery was shut down Feb 6, while the ExxonMobil refinery was shut down on Monday. Tesoro said the shut down was the result of a steelworkers’ strike, while the ExxonMobil shutdown was due to a mechanical failure, according to Consumer Watchdog.
The group noted that gas prices in California have risen 27 cents since Feb. 6, while the average U.S. price has only risen by 10 cents.
“One shutdown on top of another means that consumers will take another big hit at the pump,” Tucker said. “It’s the state’s responsibility to hold these companies accountable, and to investigate price manipulation in order to protect the public.”
— City News Service