Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
Baiji has fallen to "the rebels". The reporting is very unclear as to whether this means ISIL or the more tribal and more rural Sunnis and (non-exile) Shi'a that were the Awakenings and Sons of Iraq, as well as those that were also former Baathists or members of the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein. Regardless, the Government of Iraq no longer controls the refinery complex.
When I was deployed south and east of Baghdad in 2008 the Baiji refinery was producing much more heavy fuel oil than fuel for vehicles. It was being used to generate electricity, as well as as an industrial fuel. My understanding of this was that the manner in which the refining was being done produced significantly more heavy fuel oil than gasoline. If that is still the case, then the capture of the refinery not only impacts the Iraqis ability to fuel their cars and trucks, but also to generate electricity, cool their homes, and run a number of industrial activities. Iraqis pump water through their irrigation canals for agriculture with electricity generated by burning heavy fuel oil, so the capture of Baiji could seriously impact Iraq's still struggling agricultural sector. Should that take a significant hit, then people will migrate to towns and cities looking for work. This will create further sectarian stress. It will also recreate the phenomenon of 2006 through 2009 where (usually) men would take money to either assist with building IEDs, emplacing them, and/or detonating them so they had money to feed their families. They were not necessarily anti-Iraqi government or against the Coalition Forces, just desparate and ripe for exploitation.
* Adam L. Silverman is the Cultural Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.