Gas prices at the Sunoco Gas Station on Peninsula Boulevard...

Gas prices at the Sunoco Gas Station on Peninsula Boulevard in Garden City on Sunday. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday urged the Biden administration to tap into the National Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supplies and lower prices of gasoline — even as prices on Long Island jumped nearly 50% from November 2020.

The average price for a gallon of regular in Nassau and Suffolk was $3.549 on Sunday, according to AAA Northeast, down from $3.551 the previous day but up 49% from $2.146 the previous year.

"We need immediate relief at the gas pump and the place to look for it is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a news conference outside a Manhattan gas station.

Motorists will continue to face higher gas prices even with the boost in supply from that reserve, Schumer added. Passage of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill will reduce inflation and create infrastructure that will promote renewable energy and reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, he said.

"Bottom line, we must implement Build Back Better to help all Americans move off our dependence on fossil fuels to cleaner, cheaper and more reliable electric cars and appliance," Schumer said.

"The Build Back Better Act includes my ‘Clean Cars for America’ program, which would make electric cars cheaper than gas cars, and would allow consumers to worry less and less about rising gas prices."

Congressional Republicans have raised objections to the bill, arguing that the surge in federal spending will lead to further inflation, but the White House has countered that the programs included in the bill will ultimately help working Americans by reducing the cost of services like child care and senior care.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, created in 1975 after oil supplies were interrupted by OPEC’s 1973-1974 embargo, is made up of four federally operated storage sites that hold up to 714 million barrels of emergency crude oil.

President George H.W. Bush withdrew fuel from the reserve in 1991 during Operation Desert Strom, while President George W. Bush tapped into it to counter production declines caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. President Barack Obama also withdrew gas from the reserve to compensate for supply disruptions in 2011.

The Biden Administration is weighing "all options" to combat rising gasoline prices, White House economic adviser Brian Deese said Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union."

"The President has made clear that all options are on the table. We're monitoring the situation very carefully," Deese said.

Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether "price gouging or market manipulation" are playing a role in the increasing prices.

"One of the things that we've seen with oil and gas markets is because of consolidation, we have fewer large companies actually controlling the market, and so at moments like this, there's a real concern of price gouging or market manipulation that could … actually target consumers," Deese said.

"We're also engaging internationally with our counterparts to make sure that other oil producing nations are not taking advantage of the strength of the recovery and actually profiting at the American consumer's expense. So all those issues are on the table, including Strategic Petroleum Reserve," Deese added.

AAA Northeast spokesman Robert Sinclair said releasing supplies from the reserve would provide "very temporary" relief from rising gas prices, which he blamed on global supply chain issues and economic uncertainty fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation is also facing a shortage of truck drivers to transport fuel from refineries to gas stations, he said.

OPEC+ nations, which include the alliance’s top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, slashed production last year due to falling prices and demand last year and have not increased output, fearing new coronavirus surges around the globe will once again slash economic production and the need for fuel.

"There is no incentive for them to make more," Sinclair said "They are making $83 a barrel." A barrel of crude oil cost about half that in November 2020.

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