With Rita now a category 4 hurricane aimed at southern Texas, localities along the coast have begun evacuations. This time, after the Katrina fiasco, most people are wasting no time getting the hell out of the warned areas.
Prominent on the list of potential targets for Rita's landfall is the city of Galveston, which was the scene of America's worst-ever disaster. An estimated 6,000-8,000 people died in that 1900 hurricane which eventually became known as Isaac's Storm.
Aside from the potential human toll, Rita may deal an even greater blow to the oil industry. Some experts predict gas at $5 a gallon next week (Yes, we all know about you Europeans who have been paying $8 a gallon for years. Thank you for weighing in. Now go hide from the Germans).
Katrina knocked out 15 refineries with a capacity of 3.3 million barrels a day. That damage has mostly--but by no means completely--been repaired. We're still almost a million barrels short. And in a worst case scenario, Rita may take out another 3 million barrels a day. Additionally, since the offshore platforms along the Texas coast produce mostly natural gas, those prices may also spike just as we prepare to enter the winter heating season.
An additional complication is that the crews that repair refineries are still in the Louisianna/Mississippi area trying to bring those facilities back on line. No one will be available to work on the ones in Texas.
As a precaution, I'm taking all those empty Budweiser bottles in my recycling bin and filling them with regular unleaded while I still can.