U.S. Rep. Graves urges federal government to tap strategic petroleum reserve

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Congressman Garret Graves is urging the federal government to use some of its strategic petroleum reserve and to suspend certain regulations on refiners in hopes of relieving fuel shortages in Louisiana and other areas affected by Hurricane Ida. 

“Our state is currently experiencing widespread electricity outages, inoperable cellular networks, severed internet connections, disabled water and sewer systems, and fuel shortages that have reached critical levels,” the Baton Rouge Republican says in a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The people of Louisiana are literally in the dark without electricity, or they are relying on scarce fuel supplies to power backup generators.”

According to Graves’ letter, challenges contributing to fuel shortages include: 

• Fallen transmission lines across the Mississippi River, blocking maritime access to many refineries;
• Refineries unable to produce due to lack of electrical power system;
• Potential shortages of nitrogen and other resources required for refining;
• Service stations lacking electricity to power pumps;
• Supply disruption due to the shutdown of upstream production facilities;
• Changes in demand due to the widespread use of generators to replace electric grid power.

“I strongly urge you to consider authorizing the release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and to temporarily provide refiners relief from the Renewable Identification Number required by the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Graves says.

Renewable identification numbers are credits refiners use to comply with the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard program, which requires refiners of petroleum-based gasoline or diesel fuel to incorporate renewable sources. The EPA calls RINs the “currency” of the program. 

Hugh Raetzsch, owner of Lyons, a Port Allen-based wholesaler for convenience stores, says his company had a meeting about the fuel situation Wednesday. He says keeping his diesel-fueled delivery trucks running hasn’t been a major concern yet.

According to data gleaned from drivers who use the GasBuddy app that the company posted this morning, almost 66% of Baton Rouge gas stations are out of all fuel types, while 41% are out of diesel. Diesel users also can skip the longest lines at stations that have a separate island for diesel, Raetzsch notes. 

But he’s worried that his employees soon won’t be able to fuel their personal vehicles, noting the hours-long lines seen at some stations. 

“It’s certainly critical,” he says of the tight fuel supply. “I’m not going to be able to get my staff to work if it doesn’t start loosening up some.”