Hurricane Sandy has taught us valuable lessons about the country's energy infrastructure.
The damage left in the wake of the Halloween hurricane-nor'easter mashup demonstrates both the benefit of the country's distributed refinery and pipeline network and the need for even more diversification.
Gasoline prices throughout most of the country have continued their monthlong slide even after the storm shut in two large crude oil refineries in Pennsylvania.
The largest in the region — the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery — is still at least two weeks away from reopening.
Part of the reason for the continued price drop is that demand for gasoline in several of the country's largest cities all but disappeared for days as the storm flooded taxis and buses and grounded subways and trains throughout the region.
Prices nationwide also were unaffected by the hurricane because most of the country's refineries are in other parts of the country.
Nationwide, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.46 on Thursday, down from $3.81 one month ago, according to reports on FuelGaugeReport.com. In Oklahoma, the average price settled at $3.19 a gallon, down from $3.63 one month ago.
Gas stations in Oklahoma are supplied mostly from the four refineries in the state, with support from Houston refineries.
The Midwest is fueled mostly from refineries in Illinois and other Midwestern locations.
The Southeast gets its gasoline and diesel from Louisiana and Texas.
California has its own refineries that make the special, cleaner-burning fuel the Golden State requires.
The country's pipeline system allows refineries and suppliers to send gasoline and diesel to other regions as needed.
A fire at an Illinois refinery earlier this year shrank fuel supplies in Chicago. Gasoline from Oklahoma and other regions was moved in to help meet the demand.
The fuel shortage in New York and New Jersey over the past two weeks has been caused mostly by power outages that have prevented pumps and stations from working. As the electricity continues to return, suppliers more easily will be able to move gasoline and diesel throughout the region.
If the taxis and buses and ferries return to service and drive up fuel demand in New York and New Jersey before the big refineries reopen, suppliers will move gasoline and diesel in from other areas.
While the storm shows the benefit of refineries, pipelines and storage distributed throughout the country, it also reminds us of the potential threat of having such a large percentage of the country's fuel infrastructure on the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Katrina was not as gentle to the country's gasoline and diesel markets as Sandy.
Most new construction for refineries and terminals in recent years has been along the Gulf Coast.
With so many of the country's refineries, terminals and storage centers in the same region, disruptions along the Gulf Coast have the potential to create much more hardship to more of the country.