The Source story titled "Fire, explosion rock refinery" [See "Hovensa"] is half the story. The other half of the story is that this Hess Oil refinery fire caused world futures markets for gasoline and light diesel fuel to jump 2 percent — at least that's what they said on National Public Radio on the morning of Wednesday, May 16, the day after the fire.
Does anyone think that's a strange thing to happen on a little island with no natural petroleum resources? I guess that's part of what globalization is all about.
The Hovensa media relations people fed the following line to press people: Hovensa's "geographic location offers it a competitive advantage as direct supplier to the U.S. East Coast and to markets throughout the Caribbean and Latin America." What that omits is that this is the only place on the planet which can import refined product to the United States on foreign-registered tankers. I don't know what the price difference is these days, but several years ago, using foreign bottoms saved around $.80 per barrel.
And have we mentioned the 34 million gallons of oil which has been recovered from the water table underneath the refinery? A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, and one of the biggest recorded oil spills in the United States — three times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill, and they're still pumping oil from the aquifer.
I wonder how the folks in St. Lucia, who have a big Hess transshipment port, feel these days? Or Statia, which has some kind of big tank farm on the north end?
Editor's note: Bruce Potter is president of Island Resources Foundation, a not-for-profit research organization that has done extensive marine research in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. He served as acting director of the V.I. Energy Office at one time in the late 1970s.