Oil Shakeup

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Almost everyone agrees that if you want the price of gas to go down, build more gasoline refineries. But that's easier said than done. Our next guest has spent six years and $30 million trying to build just one — the first in 29 years in this country. Glenn McGinnis is CEO of Arizona Clean Fuels. He joins us now from Arizona.

The big question is: Why is it so difficult to build an oil refinery in this country?

GLENN MCGINNIS, CEO, ARIZONA CLEAN FUELS: The biggest issue that has existed for many years is the economics of new build construction, which is not really good in the majority of the country. The refining margins have not been high enough in a lot of the United States to justify the cost of a new-build refinery.

That's not true in the Southwest here, where we're proposing to build our refinery. Refining margins here have been higher than elsewhere, and new build construction is financeable. The secondary issue is just the time that it takes to permit and construct a large oil refinery, eight to 10 years. With the uncertainty on margins and the high cost, all the expenditures required during that time period has made it pretty difficult to convince people to build an oil refinery.

GIBSON: Yes. But we've been hearing, as we watch gasoline prices go up, people saying, "You know, get used to $2.50 a gallon, get used to $3. I mean, you could see a $60, $70 barrel of oil. No telling where gasoline prices are going." And people tell us all the time, but the real reason is, we don't have enough refinery capacity. If that's the case, I would think the U.S. government would be begging you, Mr. McGinnis, to get that baby online. Are they?

MCGINNIS: Well, nobody is begging anybody to build an oil refinery, although we're seeing a lot of support now at the political level and at the public level for a new oil refinery here in the United States. The fundamental issue has been economics. The government's programs and proposals don't deal with the issues around the economics.

They do deal with some of the concerns on the lengthiness of the permitting processes, those kinds of things, which, as I said, reduction in time period reduces the uncertainty and makes business people more prone to want to build new capacity.

GIBSON: I have been to Yuma. And I'm sure a lot of people haven't been to Yuma. It's a pretty rough place. It's pretty hot, had the Territorial Prison out there, sand dunes everywhere. That's where you are proposing to build this thing. Is the state of Arizona backing you or are they fighting you on this?

MCGINNIS: No. We're getting quite a bit of support from the state of Arizona and from the local politicians and the local people in Yuma.

Our site is actually about 40 miles east of the city of Yuma, just on the north of Interstate 8, which, if you have driven through, you'll recognize that. But we are getting a lot of support locally from the people and the politicians in the county and in the towns and in the city of Yuma itself.

GIBSON: Mr. McGinnis, if I could wave my magic wand — and I occasionally have one — and I said, "You have got your permission, go ahead," how long would it be until you put out the first gallon of gasoline?

MCGINNIS: Well, we have our air permit now, and we're looking at five years to engineer, build and start up the facility. We're looking at completing around the end of 2009, with basically the first production coming out in early 2010.

GIBSON: Glenn McGinnis is going to build the first new refinery in 29 years in the United States.

We wish you luck, Mr. McGinnis. We need another one. Appreciate it.

MCGINNIS: Thank you very much. Thank you.

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