Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer argued Sunday that New Yorkers’ financial tanks are running on empty thanks to the sharp rise in gas prices since last year, and the lawmaker called for federal action to ease the pain.
Standing in the shadow of the Mobil gas station on 13th Street and 8th Avenue in the West Village, where a gallon of 87 octane gasoline costs a staggering $4.33 a gallon, Schumer charged that drivers are getting drained by the inflated fuel costs. Soaring in price from $2.12 last year for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel to $3.42 and even higher in Manhattan in 2021, Schumer says the gasoline is too darn high.
“Today, our economy is reawakening from COVID, and supply and demand can’t keep up with the global desire to return to normal ASAP. But getting back to normal of course would take time, and it would mean fuel prices would remain in flux. When gas prices go up, families pinch and pinch and pinch. Less money for groceries, less money for everyday expenses, less money for the high cost of prescription drugs, which we’re trying to do something about in our Build Back Better bill,” Schumer said, pointing at the Mobil gas pump.
Schumer told reporters he is urging President Biden to approve the sales of fuel from petroleum reserves until the Build Back Better Agenda is implemented through the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (in turn tapping about 600 million barrels).
This is not an unaccustomed request from the senator; in fact he touted that in 2005, he successfully urged then-President George W. Bush to tap into the same reserves when gasoline prices surged following Hurricane Katrina, which damaged Gulf Coast oil refinery operations.
This plea comes directly before the holiday season, a time when he believes it is vital for the economy to spring back. Schumer blames the price hike on the deadly virus and the economic crisis it wrought, yet feels the reserves, while not a long-term solution, is key to alleviating it.
“So that’s why I’m urging the administration to tap that reserve. Get the prices down. And then we have to embark on a full-time campaign to get us away from carbon fuels all together, which will reduce all of the ups and downs that we see with gasoline, with oil, with home heating oil, and everything else. Our plan isn’t a cure all. It’s a temporary solution to deal with the problems of price shocks caused by fossil fuel supply, but it can ease prices for holiday travel. It can ease prices across the country and certainly here in New York,” Schumer added.
The Build Back Better proposal will be brought to a vote in the House this week and then the Senate. Schumer claims the legislation would include investment in green power sources (wind, water and solar) that would help decrease the amount of carbon released in the atmosphere by 50% by 2030, move to electric vehicles through clean cars in America; and reduce Americans’ dependence on oil.
“The reserve is not a long-term solution. It should only be used in emergencies, and it’s been used three times in the past. It was used during 1991 during Desert Storm, it was used during 2005 during Katrina and it was used in 2011 under President Obama when there were crude oil disruptions. So, now with these supply chain problems is the time to use it. But now is also the time to get on the path to a green energy future where we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels and the erratic pricing that that entails,” Schumer said.