Great News for Our Regionby Pat Meehan - No Comments
Posted on May 3rd, 2012 1:43 pm
Details became public this week of some phenomenal news for our region: Delta Airlines has agreed to purchase the idled Conoco refinery in Trainer, Delaware County, and use it to refine jet fuel for its fleet of airliners up and down the east coast.
The refinery’s purchase will restore nearly hundreds jobs lost by its closure earlier this year, but its economic impact is far greater than that number suggests. For decades, the Conoco refinery was the bedrock of the Trainer community. The gates of that refinery were gateways to a solid, middle-class living for generations of workers.
But with the announcement that Conoco was closing those gates, the thousands of jobs that were supported by that refinery were threatened. Everything from the contractors and suppliers who got work from the refinery to the diners and sandwich shops were off-duty workers gathered were at risk. Saving this facility preserves more than just an oil refinery. It preserves an entire way of life for the residents of this community.
With this purchase, Delta becomes the first airline in history to own an oil refinery. It’s no secret that the high cost of jet fuel has seriously harmed airlines’ profitability. But after the first public indication that Delta may be interested in purchasing a refinery, some analysts were skeptical that such an unorthodox solution to a problem plaguing the industry would be successful.
Delta predicts that the Trainer refinery could eventually produce the equivalent of 80% of their domestic jet fuel needs, saving them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fuel costs. To be sure, Delta is taking a risk – but where some saw risk, Delta saw opportunity. Delta’s bold move to ease its fuel-cost woes reflects the innovative and out-of-the-box thinking that makes American businesses the world’s greatest.
The work of the last several months was a model for the sort of cooperation at all levels of government necessary to protect a community at risk. Local, state and federal officials from both parties along with municipal and labor leaders came together and pledged to do anything necessary to save the jobs at this refinery. This sort of cooperation was an absolute necessity for Delta to come into our region and take the risk that it did.
We still have important work left to do. One Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook has already been idled, and another in west Philadelphia will soon suffer the same fate. We’re going to continue working tirelessly in the weeks and months ahead to find buyers for these refineries, as well. This week’s announcement by Delta shows that by working together and believing in the strength and skill of our workers, we can and will be successful.
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