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Biden taps Northeast gas reserve in move to curb prices at the pump

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Traveling for Memorial Day weekend? 02:32

The Biden administration said Tuesday it will release 1 million barrels of gasoline from a Northeast reserve in a move to ease prices at the pump for motorists.

The Energy Department said the sale was timed to provide relief as the summer driving season begins.

"The Biden-Harris Administration is laser-focused on lowering prices at the pump for American families, especially as drivers hit the road for summer driving season," U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement. "By strategically releasing this reserve in between Memorial Day and July 4th, we are ensuring sufficient supply flows to the tri-state and northeast at a time hardworking Americans need it the most."

A gallon of regular gas averages roughly $3.60 nationwide, down from $3.67 in April but up 6 cents from a year ago, according to AAA. Some states face markedly higher prices, with California drivers paying $5.19 a gallon, compared with $3.06 in Mississippi, while fuel costs remain volatile in other parts of the U.S.

Inflation remains a major issue for Americans, and on the campaign trail as the November presidential election nears. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 41% of Americans cited inflation or the high cost of living their most pressing financial problem. 

The Consumer Price Index rose at an annual rate of 3.4% in April, still considerably hotter than the Federal Reserve's 2% target. Housing and gas prices accounted for more than 70% of the monthly increase last month. 

Domestic gas prices are largely determined by the cost of oil. Other factors include the annual shift from winter to summer fuel blends, which typically drives up prices, and other seasonal changes such as routine maintenance at oil refineries. 

Americans say inflation is their biggest financial concern, Gallup poll found 03:11

That means presidents have little influence on the cost of gas, other than to occasionally tap the nation's reserves. In 2022, the Biden administration moved to release 180 million barrels of oil from the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve over six months after global crude prices surged following Russia's attack on Ukraine. 

President Barack Obama created the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which damaged two refineries in the region and led to severe gas shortages in some states. But the Biden administration will close the reserve as it liquidates the stockpile, the Energy Department said.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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