Hurricane Rita is now on a path to hit the oil rigs in the Gulf offshore Texas. This is the second blow to Gulf oil in less than a month. While Rita may have less punch than Katrina, the damage done to Gulf oil rigs is likely to be severe. As this is being written, the mayor in Galveston, Texas, is issuing mandatory evacuation orders.

The most tragic damage resulting from hurricanes is death and injury to the people who live in their dangerous path. As soon as hurricane season ends, people forget and rebuild. With any luck, Hurricane Rita will not cause the human damage done by Katrina.

The disruption of the oil industry is an almost certain consequence. Chevron has announced that 56 percent of the pre-Katrina production of its Gulf refineries has already been restored. That so much production has been restored in such a short period of time is remarkable, a credit to the oil industry professionals who have proved once again they can work in crisis mode. Still, in the last 30 years we have built no new refineries. If Rita hits the Gulf off Texas, areas will be hit that were missed by Katrina’s fury.

The experts at have produced for us a map showing the likely path of Hurricane Rita, as well as the actual path of Katrina. The path projected for Rita comes directly across the oil rigs offshore Texas, damaging valuable oil producing facilities across a swath that Katrina spared.

Oil rigs in the path of Hurricane Rita (map:

We now depend upon the Gulf of Mexico for much of our domestic production of oil. Texas has 26 oil refineries, which produce nearly a quarter of all the gasoline used in the United States. But even if OPEC were to pour millions of barrels of extra crude into the United States to alleviate the impact of the hurricanes, we would still have a hard time getting more gasoline to the gas pumps.

Gas prices are rising because of a demand-push. The hurricanes cause more gas price distress by knocking out refineries than by destroying rigs in the Gulf. Refineries are the bottleneck in the system. Crude oil has to be refined before it can be pumped into your car. When Gulf refineries get knocked offline, oil prices are certain to spike even higher.

No new oil refineries have been built in the United States in the last 30 years. Refining is a low margin part of the oil business. We have radical environmentalists to thank for raising the costs of oil refining even higher.

Still, the Left can be counted on to use Hurricane Rita for attempted political gain once again, despite the human suffering and economic damage done by the storm. We are certain to hear that we are experiencing more severe hurricanes because of “global warming.” Again, it’s Bush’s fault. The administration has opposed signing the Kyoto Treaty, so by burning more hydrocarbon fuel and pumping more carbon dioxide into the air, we are warming the oceans and thereby intensifying the hurricanes.

The problem is that the scientists don’t all agree. Hurricanes come in cycles. A team of meteorologists predicted this summer in a highly publicized article they wrote for the journal Science that the more intense North Atlantic hurricane activity we are experiencing now is part of a cycle that may continue for at least the next 10 years. If we are really unlucky, the more intense hurricane cycle may last as long as 40 years.

The meteorologists analyzed data going back 112 years. Their study was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That the scientists received federal funding will only prove to the political Left that their results were biased to begin with. Global warming alarmists like to cry “Wolf!” every time a natural disaster occurs, regardless of the soundness of their data or the rigor of their mathematical computer models. Next winter, if we experience an unusual number of blizzards, we are sure to hear someone on the political Left claim the culprit is global warming and the blame should go on George W. Bush.

What we should all be concerned about is that we need more oil refineries, right now. Hurricane Rita is about to make that point forcefully.

Editor’s note: Jerome Corsi’s new book, “Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil,” with co-author Craig Smith, will be published in October by WND Books.

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