A new oil refinery has not been built in the United States since 1976. During that time, our gasoline use has increased over 25 percent. The nation's 149 existing refineries have been running at maximum capacity trying to meet record demand and, as a result, not only do we import oil, we actually have to import 10 percent of our daily gasoline from refineries overseas.
So when Hurricane Katrina or a refinery fire or anything else causes even just a few refineries to shut down for awhile, there is absolutely no excess capacity nationwide to make up the difference, and prices at the pump skyrocket.
For the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world this is a ridiculous situation that will only get worse as our insatiable demand for gasoline keeps growing and refinery capacity falls further behind in the coming years.
Just a few new refineries would alleviate the problem and help keep our gas prices lower and steadier.