The US Congress is planning to sell its emergency stock of one million barrels of gasoline after questions were raised about the necessity of the stockpile. The emergency reserve was established in 2014 after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on fuel terminals and refineries, triggering fuel shortages in parts of New York. At that time, some fuel stations were left with no gasoline for an entire month. 

The million-barrel stockpile, which is currently stored in Maine, Massachusetts and New Jersey, has never been used. As such, legislation that would trigger the sale of the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve could reach the Senate floor as soon as this month.

The idea of selling the cache is not a new one, nor is it divided along partisan lines. In a 2017 budget request, then-President Donald Trump recommended getting rid of the stockpile, commenting that it “does not have the operational functionality that was envisioned post-Sandy”. Bloomberg also notes that the language recommending the sale is the same in bills proposed by both Republicans and Democrats.

A July committee report noted that selling the cache at that time would have provided the government around $94m; the rise in fuel prices since means that the final total will likely be much higher. This will provide a welcome cash injection for the US Government, which this year once again faced the threat of hitting the debt ceiling.

Commentators have noted that the size of the stockpile has made it an expensive undertaking with little practical usage. Kevin Book, managing director of Washington-based consultancy ClearView Energy Partners, offered a particularly sharp critique, noting “It is too small to make a difference and too big to be cheap”.