Are we making strides in the United States to become more energy independent?

It sure doesn't seem that way, according to two recent reports.

First, we've been reading reports in newspapers across the country that many coal mine operators have begun sending large amounts of coal to China. This is leaving shortages in some areas to domestic customers.

The Chinese are interested in buying both anthracite and bituminous coal. Although politicians here in America have imposed ridiculous "cap and trade" policies and extremely stringent environmental regulations on the use of coal, industries and utilities in China are thriving by using our fossil fuel, a natural resource we have in abundance.

Second, State Rep. Doyle Heffley yesterday advised that three of only five oil refineries remaining on the East Coast could be closing. Just 10 years ago, there were 12 operating refineries. There could soon be just two.

Why are they closing? Are environmental laws too tough? Are taxes too high? Is there a problem with doing business in Pennsylvania?

Hopefully, Heffley and other lawmakers will find answers and prevent the closures.

Heffley said the potential refinery closures leave the entire country's supply of petroleum products vulnerable to disasters – such as the hurricanes that shut down Gulf Coast refineries in 2005 – and the Northeast vulnerable to heating oil price hikes and shortages.

He's concerned that the loss of fuel from those refineries could cause spikes in gasoline prices and make the East Coast more dependent on gasoline imports.

It's not only the negative economic impact that's a concern with the closing of the refineries. It's also a national security issue.

Remember those fuel shortages of the 70s, when people had to wait in long lines to get gasoline on specific days of the week?

Or how Hurricane Katrina impacted the Gulf of Mexico refineries and subsequently, our fuel prices?

Hopefully, Sonoco and ConocoPhillips can be convinced to keep their refineries open.

It is encouraging to see Heffley taking a pro-active role in this matter that affects us all.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]