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It's A Bad Time For A Road Trip

By JoshMogerman in News on Aug 4, 2012 8:00PM

Gas for Less [Mel]
At this point, we are all used to the refrain, “highest gas prices in the nation” when referring to the Chicago region. So it should not be a surprise that as gas prices in most of the country went up a mere 4 cents this week, average prices in Illinois jumped 11 times that amount. What’s the deal? Well, we’ve devoted a lot of Chicagoist electrons to talking about crappy pipelines and even crappier oil coursing through them. This is where those stories impact everyday life at the gas station.

This particular bout of high prices comes as the region’s oil infrastructure seems to be conspiring against us. There’s the pipeline spill in Wisconsin from last week. That line remains closed its owners struggle to come up with a safety plan that passes muster.

But that’s not all. There is an outage at BP’s controversial refinery just across the state border in Whiting, IN after a new piece of equipment caught fire. There are also problems at the Citgo refinery in Lemont, the ConocoPhilips Wood River refinery on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River across from St. Louis and the Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota. Analysts call the confluence “bad luck” for Chicago, but it is hard to ignore that all of those facilities utilize the notoriously dirty and hard-to-refine tar sands oil from Canada. And most are served by pipelines with troubling history of outages (including the first Keystone pipeline and Enbridge’s messy Lakehead system, notorious for belching into the Kalamazoo River two years ago) which move a particularly acidic and sludgy type of oil called diluted bitumen that is being studied by the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate if further safety precautions are necessary to move it.

No doubt excessive taxes and the added cost of summer gasoline blends to combat the region’s air pollution problem contribute mightily to keeping Chicago’s gas prices high, but we cannot help but wonder if the infrastructure breakdowns that continually spike pump prices have to do with the deepened investment in what is often referred to as the “dirtiest oil on the planet.” Think about that next time you fill’er up!