I knew something stunk in this insipid article by Howell Raines about how the oil industry is causing the oil spike. One of his big claims was that:

But the oil companies themselves choked supply by closing more than half of their 300 U.S. refineries in the past 25 years

Notice what Raines didn’t say. He didn’t say that oil companies has reduced their refining capacity, just the number of refineries. This is typical — a Michael Moore trick to say something truthful while appearing to say something that’s a lie. And indeed, it is a lie.

Sorry to contradict theology with facts, but U. S. refining capacity actually increased by 11% in the last 23 years.

Stats from DOE Energy Information Administration show refining capacity in 2008 as 17,588 TBD (thousand barrels a day of crude distillation capacity) vs. 15,659 TBD in 1985 (earliest year for which data is on-line).

Yes, in the last 25 years, a lot of small, inefficient plants were shut down.

These shutdowns were more than offset by significant expansion of capacity at larger, more efficient refineries, which can process a much wider range of input (not just “light, sweet” credit). In addition, these larger plants have much more complex secondary refining capacity (e.g. catalytic crackers, reformers, desulfurization units) so that they actually squeeze out much more usable products from each barrel of crude, so that net production capacity has probably increased more than the above stats would indicate. Also, the more complex refineries meet higher standards for product quality (e.g. lead-free, “clean” gasoline) and refinery environment and safety.

As I blog, I flatter myself to think I’m getting a little better at this exercise. Realizing when someone uses a fact (there are fewer refineries) to imply a falsehood (refinery capacity is down).


I’m fascinated by this map, showing average lifespan. I have no idea how this is measured, so some helping of salt may be in order. There is clearly a pattern of northern states having longer lifespans — which somewhat corresponds to obesity rates. But why does Minnesota have such a long lifespan? What’s with that little squiggle in southern Texas? Or that blob in southwestern Florida?

And Purple Horseshoes

You know, I can remember distinctly the big news when Lucky Charms added purple horseshoes to its list. Now, according to sporcle, they’ve had all sorts of stuff thrown in. Egad. I can’t feed my daughter that.

Ha, I just read on wikipedia, the following:

For a brief period of time in 1975, Lucky the Leprechaun was replaced as the cereal’s mascot by Waldo the Wizard, who performed better in focus groups and initial market tests than Lucky. Waldo was quickly retired, and Lucky once again reinstated a year later.

Market twits. What do they know? They probably went on to produce New Coke a decade later. I’ve never understood that mentality in corporate America. We’ve had something that has sold extremely well. Let’s mess with it!

Baby Borrowers

I just caught a truly repulsive show on NBC in which young people borrow babies for a few days to see what it’s like. I guess the amazingly smug point is that they learn how hard it is to be a parent.

Bollocks. You can’t start someone out as a parent by throwing them right into the deep end. You grow with the child, being able to handle more and more as they get older. Moreover, when it’s your kid rather than someone else’s, you have a lot more patience and understanding.

What a bunch of crap.

Lost At Sea

You know, I’m sure the art dealers this article deals with are, in fact, scummy. But I can’t have too much sympathy with someone who buys “fine” art on a fucking cruise ship. With the exception of duty-free alcohol, everything on a cruise ship is way over-priced. Next, they’ll be upset because those approved discount jewelers in Caribbean ports have way over-priced their merchandise too.

So there is a bit of poetry in this. Rich idiots get on a boat and act like idiots. When Sue and I went on our honeymoon, we only spent money on one over-priced thing — a garnet that Sue really wanted. We probably payed a lot more than it was worth, but a few dozen bucks isn’t going to keep me up at night. I would never by fine jewelry or art from a recommended shipboard dealer. Never.