Owens, Schumer want Obama to tap petroleum reserves

Add U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and North Country Congressman Bill Owens to the list of lawmakers urging President Barack Obama to tap the nation's petroleum reserves to combat increasing gas prices.

Last week, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand requested that President Obama release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to offset the rising cost of gasoline.

Now, Schumer and Owens - both Democrats from New York - want Obama to deploy the reserves in order to "clamp down on skyrocketing gas prices."

Schumer says the recent unrest in the Middle East has affected the supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, causing the average price per gallon of oil to jump some 33 cents in just two weeks.

"With oil prices surging day after day, Americans are being squeezed at the pump and paying more for everything from groceries to plane tickets," Schumer said, adding that even a commitment by Obama that he "stands ready" to tap into reserves could help calm "jittery markets."

Here in the North Country, the cost of gasoline has jumped some 22 percent in the last year, Owens says.

"We're seeing prices that range from about $3.62 to $3.89 as you travel around the district," he said. "Clearly, prices have gone up rather significantly from a couple months ago."

Owens planned to introduce legislation Thursday urging Obama to open up the petroleum reserves.

"I think that is a reasonable approach here," he said. "We know from recent history that when it was done following Hurricane Katrina that we saw an approximate 30 percent drop in gasoline prices. Historically it tells us that dipping into the reserves could have a significant value when it comes to lowering gas prices."

But critics say the Obama administration would be foolish to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, noting that it was created as a last resort should the nation's supply be put in jeopardy - not to influence the price at the pump.

Late last week, Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun sent his own letter to President Obama, urging him to consider a pair of recommendations.

First, Maroun suggests eliminating the three types of unleaded gasoline currently on the market, driving down cost at refineries.

Second, he says Obama should give American gasoline companies three years to increase refinery capacities - or face an executive order of price control.

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