NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If there's any lesson to be learned from major integrated oil company earnings reports this week, it's that the refining business continues to struggle through a perfect storm of problems.

The rising price of crude in recent weeks and months, coupled with sluggish demand for refined products like gasoline and diesel, combined with a glut of fuel stockpiles, translates into weakening margins for anyone in the refining business.

But while the integrateds may be able to partially buttress overall losses driven, in part, by their downstream operations by increasing output in their upstream segment, independent refiners aren't as lucky. Valero Energy ( VLO - Get Report), the nation's largest independent refiner, announced this week that it swung to a wider-than-forecast third quarter loss. The company later added that it expects a similar loss in the fourth quarter.

As outages and cost-cutting remain the game plan for many operations, we asked TheStreet readers to take a poll that asked "which independent refining operation do you think will have the best, or least worst, third quarter?"

Of course, Lauren Tara LaCapra, reporter for TheStreet, also made an all-important point in the comments section of the poll, noting that the concept of "best" is "a pretty subjective term. It may depend more on where the market's expectations lie than on whose results have improved or declined the most. (At least when considering how the refiner stocks will respond.)"

So with that, the nearly 1,800 votes were spread somewhat evenly across the five choices. Frontier Oil ( FTO) and Sunoco ( SUN - Get Report) brought up the rear of the poll, garnering 14.9% and 19.2% of the vote tally, respectively.

Valero and Tesoro ( TSO) clocked in with 19.7% and 20.6% of the vote each.

But collecting the most votes was El Paso, Texas-based Western Refining ( WNR), which brought in 25.5%.

-- Written by Sung Moss in New York

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