Skip to content

The US Can't Make Enough Fuel and There's No Fix in Sight

A shrinking fleet of domestic refineries is producing a greater share of the world’s gasoline and diesel, setting the stage for a supply crisis.

Emissions rise from an oil refinery in Memphis, Tennessee.
Emissions rise from an oil refinery in Memphis, Tennessee.Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

From record gasoline prices to higher airfares to fears of diesel rationing ahead, America’s runaway energy market is disquieting both US travelers and the wider economy. But the chief driver isn’t high crude prices or even the rebound in demand: It’s simply too few refineries turning oil into usable fuels. 

More than 1 million barrels a day of the country’s oil refining capacity — or about 5% overall — has shut since the beginning of the pandemic. Elsewhere in the world, capacity has shrunk by 2.13 million additional barrels a day, energy consultancy Turner, Mason & Co. estimates. And with no plans to bring new US plants online, even though refiners are reaping record profits, the supply squeeze is only going to get worse.