U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) speaks to members of the...

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) speaks to members of the Long Islang Real Estate Group in Old Westbury. (March 21, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Rep. Steve Israel Sunday urged President Barack Obama to tap the nation's strategic petroleum reserves to lower consumer gasoline prices.

Israel (D-Dix Hills) last month sent the White House a letter with a similar message, calling increasing fuel costs -- which have since risen above $4 per gallon on Long Island -- "an unexpected burden on American consumers and my constituents at a pivotal moment in our economic recovery."

Israel, who has scheduled a news conference Monday at a Dix Hills gas station, told Newsday he has long advocated releasing more of the nation's more than 700 million barrels of petroleum reserves, which would last the nation about a month.

"When George [W.] Bush was president, I criticized him for not doing it, and I'm critical of this president for not doing it," Israel said.

Bush did release 10.7 million barrels of oil after Hurricane Katrina led to a gas-price spike in 2005 and President Bill Clinton released 30 million barrels in 2000. In both cases, gas prices dropped soon after.

The White House has not responded to his request, Israel said.

Israel also criticized Senate Republicans for not adopting the House-passed energy bill known as cap-and-trade during the last congressional session. With Republicans taking control of the House in January, the proposal is dead.

"We need a long-term energy policy in this country that will end our reliance on unstable Middle East regimes for oil," he said. "We are absolutely paying the price because that bill would have started a development of alternatives to going to the Persian Gulf."

Israel declined to identify a fair price for a gallon of gas, saying it would be determined by the marketplace, though he said monopolistic practices drive prices higher.

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