Insight from Washington: US refiners worry about White House wild card as IMO 2020 nears

A strict sulfur limit for marine fuels starting in 2020 and its potential to boost US gasoline and diesel prices may have caught the White House off guard last year, but it’s not taking refiners or members of the shipping industry by surprise. US refiners say they have been preparing for the International Maritime Organization’s 0.5% sulfur cap for a dozen years by making billions of dollars of investments to their plants. They also think US oil producers are well positioned to meet new global demand for lower-sulfur fuels. Despite the industry’s confidence, Gulf Coast refiners are nevertheless skittish about one major wild card. The January 1, 2020 implementation date comes right in the middle of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, and this White House has shown a particular sensitivity to pump prices and their impact on voters. Trump has proved through his Twitter feed that he personally keeps a close eye on oil prices, even if he sometimes confuses ICE Brent and NYMEX WTI. Additionally, his administration weighs policy options with an understanding of how they might move gasoline and crude oil prices. Click to enlarge Trump administration sources told the Wall Street Journal in October that the White… continue reading

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