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What Will Happen to the Gulf Coast If the Oil Industry Retreats?

Hurricane Harvey pummeled the country’s energy infrastructure, and there are few incentives in place to promote renewables.
Smoke is released into the sky at an oil refinery in Wilmington, California
Smoke is released into the sky at an oil refinery in Wilmington, CaliforniaBret Hartman/Reuters

During this year’s record-breaking hurricane season, oil rigs and refineries were just as exposed as any structure on the precarious Gulf Coast, and their owners were limited to the same options as everyone else: evacuate, prepare, and hope the storm was merciful. The devastation Harvey and other storms left behind illuminates just how defenseless oil and gas infrastructure is in the face of hurricanes that are growing in magnitude and frequency and challenging the permanence of the oil and gas industry's presence in the Gulf.

Harvey shut down 22 percent of the nation’s refining capacity, vitally disrupted the oil and gas transportation networks that deliver energy to much of the U.S., and caused damage to facilities that leaked more than a million pounds of dangerous air pollutants into communities around Texas. The road back to full operational capacity will take weeks, if not months.