Answers to this critical supply chain debacle question are all over the map in today's press from claims that refineries pre-emptively shut down as Sandy advanced, to mention of damage at refineries preventing them from coming back on line. But the real answer appears to be lack of electricity to pump refined fuel from stocked storage tanks and POS retail service stations.
CNBC reports "The problem is not gasoline supplies, but the ability to distribute it, especially from the critical terminal area around Linden, N.J., which lost power and was hit by storm surge. An estimated 75 percent or more of the gas stations in New Jersey were closed either because they had no gasoline, no power or both, said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the N.J. Gasoline, Convenience, Automotive Association. His organization represents about 1,000 gasoline stations in N.J. 'What I'm seeing is there's a combination of problems. Power is at the root of it. That means gasoline that is already in inventory, already refined in those big tanks you see along the side of the turnpike, they can't get that gasoline into the delivery trucks without power,' said Risalvato."
As the presidential candidate's debate surges in advance of Tuesday's election, it's rather ironic that both parties are exhibiting hurricane shyness over directly confronting what is clearly the most critical missing link in the Northeast's recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Romney has routinely beat a drum with a rhythmic prescription that funding for FEMA ought to be cut in favor of allowing state and local governments to address the emergency issues of their locals as they know best. While Obama stands adamant that the full force of the federal government is best suited to support emergency response to catastrophes. And although N.J. Governor Christie and NYC Mayor Bloomberg have rather astutely heaped praise on the current administration's and FEMA's speedy response to the current crisis, it would appear that more can be done to supply gasoline to citizens for their cars and generators as well as livery service and law enforcement.
Today's New York Times reports "Mr. Christie said Thursday afternoon that President Obama had sent 250,000 gallons of gas and 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel to the state through the Department of Defense, and he pledged to send more if needed. [and] In Paterson, N.J., the state's third-largest city, the Police Department was trying to negotiate emergency contracts for gas, and short of that, said it would beginning siphoning it from other city vehicles to keep police cruisers running. Despite these steps the situation was not expected to get significantly better on Friday. Utility companies said power might not be fully restored until late next week."
Is it, in fact, not possible for military reservists and the Army Corp of Engineers to provide emergency power to fuel storage facilities to fill tanker trucks and also provide stand alone power to enable strapped retail service stations so that they can power their pumps? I certainly realize that this would not be a simple program to tactically execute, but as temperatures fall well into the 30's tonight in areas where citizens do not have power or gasoline for generators -- and therefore no heat -- such an effort, after aggregate millions have been in the dark all week, seems to have fallen off the response grid.