WASHINGTON — The government is establishing its first emergency reserves of gasoline to address future fuel disruptions in the New York City area and New England like those caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the Energy Department announced Friday.
The two reserves totaling 1 million gallons of gasoline 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. Official said they hope to have the new gasoline reserves in place by the end of summer, before the start of the 2014 hurricane season.
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 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 a million gallons represents only a small fraction of the 13.8 million gallons of gasoline used daily in 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.