US to build 2 gasoline reserves in Northeast

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NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government offered New Yorkers smarting from Superstorm Sandy some hope Friday that they won’t see a repeat of chronic gasoline shortages, announcing plans to create gas reserves to ease future weather-related disruptions.

The two reserves — one for the New York City area and one in New England — will total 42 million gallons gasoline and will be stored in leased commercial terminals around New York Harbor and Boston, the Energy Department said.

The $200 million project will be paid with proceeds from a sale of crude oil from the government’s emergency reserves on the Gulf Coast. Officials said they hope to have the new gasoline reserves in place by the end of summer, before the start of the 2014 hurricane season.

It was welcome news for motorists who endured a shortage that caused long lines at gas stations across the region, left emergency responders without enough fuel and briefly required 1970s-style rationing.

“If they could make that happen, I’m all for it,” said Keith Lee, a New York City cab driver.

Another cabbie, Surang Kalamon, was more skeptical, saying he remained worried both about gas supplies and rising costs at the pump. During Sandy, “We had to drive into New Jersey 50, 60 miles to get gas,” he said.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a conference call Friday with reporters that the facilities were part of a larger effort to prepare for the consequences of global warming and “the effects of climate change we already see occurring at home.”

The 2012 storm knocked out refineries, damaged terminals and left gasoline stations without power, leading to severe gasoline storages.

“Like sandbags and stockpiles of food and medicine, this gasoline reserve is what the Northeast needs to be ready for supercharged storms from climate change,” said U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

However, the reserves have two shortcomings: They will not solve the problem of widespread power loss and flooding such as that caused by Sandy. Power is needed to operate pumps for getting gasoline into cars. And 42 million gallons represents only a little more than three days’ worth of the gasoline used by New York state alone.

The reserves are similar to a million-gallon government reserve of diesel fuel for the Northeast. It was first tapped during Sandy to supply first responders and emergency generators during the storm.

The Energy Department also operates the Strategic Petroleum Reserve along the Gulf Cost, which stores 696 million gallons of crude oil under salt domes. It was set up after the 1973 Arab oil embargo. That reserve has only been tapped three times, most recently in June 2011 when President Barack Obama sold off some oil to deal with supply disruptions due to unrest in the Middle East.

Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced the creation of the nation’s first state gasoline reserve, expected to hold three million gallons of fuel. The $10 million project is based at a Northville Industries complex on Long Island, but the gasoline could be delivered to other parts of the state where needed, the governor’s office said.

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Cappiello reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Michael Sisak in New York also contributed to this report.

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