CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. - The Phillips 66 and Marathon Petroleum are permanently converting their East Bay refineries to produce renewable, bio-based diesel fuel from plant-based materials.
One of the consequences of having cleaner diesel truck fuel is a penalty right at the pump for those who use gasoline.
The Marathon Refinery in Martinez and the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo are being converted to quit making fuel from oil to less polluting plant-based diesel fuels, already widely used in California--mostly used by big rigs.
"Coming into the year, there's only gonna be three refineries in the Bay Area," said Texas-based Andrew Lipow, an oil industry analyst and consultant. "When you have only three and one shuts down, it makes, to say the least, it would make things exciting and not necessarily in a good way."
"Yes, we'll be as vulnerable or more to disruptions just because there's less alternative sources to diversity that production amongst. I think we'll have too much diesel and not enough gasoline," said UC Davis economics professor Jim Bushell.
Not enough gasoline in a state mostly using gasoline cars means higher priced gasoline.
California could import its special blend of gas from other refineries in the U.S. or overseas that have the ability to make it and ship it here, mostly by ocean tankers ships.
However, that would be very expensive and take weeks to get to local distributors.
Additionally, old cooking oils and animal fats don't come close to the volumes needed for transportation.
Vast new fields of soybeans and corn will be needed here and abroad which could lead to even more forest tree cutting to make way for farms; trees that help naturally reduce greenhouse gases.
"Deforestation is just releasing a carbon bomb on the future generations," said Gary Hughes of environmental group Biofuel Watch.
Beyond that, Biofuel Watch says that biofuel refineries are, after all, refineries.
"We're really concerned about flaring and potentially serious accidents at the factories that are looking to refine these fuels," said Hughes.
Refiners say biofuel will have a smaller carbon footprint but pretty much everybody agrees that getting to hydrogen fuel cells or batteries in vehicles will be the best option for the planet.