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Tapped out at the gas pump

High prices fueling pressure on travelers

Alyse Bombeck, 28, of Hermitage, Pa., smiles despite her pricy gas tank refill at the Sheetz on state Route 46 in Howland. President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered 50 million barrels of oil released from America's strategic reserve to help bring down energy costs.

AUSTINTOWN — With gas prices now at a national average of $3.40 per gallon, more than 50 percent higher than a year ago, local residents are feeling the financial pressure for staying on the road.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered 50 million barrels of oil released from America’s strategic reserve to help bring down energy costs, in coordination with other major energy consuming nations, including India, the United Kingdom and China.

The government will begin to move barrels into the market in December. This isn’t an instant fix, however; gas prices will take a while to adjust, similarly to oil. Oil prices dropped before news broke about the barrels’ release. But on Tuesday morning, gas prices shot up nearly 2 percent instead of lowering.

Biden’s move to reduce gas prices caused accidental inflation, and rising prices ahead of Thanksgiving and winter holiday travel, according to the Associated Press.

Residents and visitors to Trumbull and Mahoning counties had a lot to say about the uptick in Valley gas costs, which are below the national average.

At the Sheetz on state Route 46 in Howland, gas prices were $3.19 per gallon, but $3.99 for premium on Tuesday.

Alyse Bombeck, 28, drives from her residence in Hermitage, Pa. to get to her job at the Residence Hampton Inn in the Eastwood Mall every day. Although she said the prices are cheaper in Ohio, it’s still expensive and she fills her tank every week.

“So, I just filled up and it cost me $44.11. I have a Nissan Rogue (SUV). That’s a lot for my car, and it used to take about $35 to fill. That $44 is tough, especially around the holidays, when you want to buy gifts for your family and friends. If you’re spending all your money on gas, that sucks.”

At the GetGo on 5163 Mahoning Ave in Austintown, gas was priced at $3.23 per gallon. Pamela Gant, 41, of Austintown, paused her gas pumping to say she thinks it hinders people’s ability to travel during the holidays to see loved ones. She seemed optimistic, however, about Biden’s decision to lower gas prices.

“Of course people are going to give Biden pushback, but in the same token, I think that it’s going to help people, which our communities and our society absolutely need right now. The pandemic has set people back, and even though everywhere is hiring, we see people still not getting employment, and I think gas prices contribute to it.”

Gas prices at the Gulf gas station in Niles were $3.19 per gallon. Ethan Richards, 20, Niles, stood in the wind chill at the pump.

“Times are tough, I’m low on money. It’s rough but we’re living,” Richards said. “I live 45 minutes away from my family … I don’t even have enough money to do my Christmas shopping, let alone to get down there. It would be better if the price was back to $2.89 (per gallon) rather than $3.19.”

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an emergency stockpile of oil in case of natural disaster, is maintained by the Energy Department. The reserve contains about 605 million barrels of oil.

“Right now, I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump,” Biden said. “From the middle class, and working families that are spending much too much and it’s a strain … you’re the reason I was sent here to look out for you.”

The COVID-19 pandemic’s closings that began in April 2020 made the oil market turn negative. Energy traders were hesitant until the economy recovered, and energy stock jumped again, alongside climbing prices.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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