President Joe Biden speaks during a Jewish American Heritage Month event, Monday May 20, 2024, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Tuesday that it is releasing 1 million barrels of gasoline from a Northeast reserve established after Superstorm Sandy in a bid to lower prices at the pump this summer.

The sale, from storage sites in New Jersey and Maine, will be allocated in increments of 100,000 barrels at a time. The approach will create a competitive bidding process that ensures gasoline can flow into local retailers ahead of the July 4 holiday and sold at competitive prices, the Energy Department said. The move is intended to help “lower costs for American families and consumers,″ the department said in a statement.

Gas prices average about $3.60 per gallon nationwide as of Tuesday, up 6 cents from a year ago, according to AAA. Tapping gasoline reserves is one of the few actions a president can take by himself to try to control inflation, an election year liability for the party in control of the White House.

“The Biden-Harris administration is laser-focused on lowering prices at the pump for American families, especially as drivers hit the road for summer driving season,″ Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in the statement. “By strategically releasing this reserve in between Memorial Day and July 4th, we are ensuring sufficient supply flows to the tri-state (area) and Northeast at a time hardworking Americans need it the most.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said release of gas from the Northeast reserve builds on actions by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, “to lower gas and energy costs — including historic releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the largest-ever investment in clean energy.″

Biden significantly drained the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dropping the stockpile to its lowest level since the 1980s. The election-year move helped stabilize gasoline prices that had been rising in the wake of the war in Europe but drew complaints from Republicans that the Democratic president was playing politics with a reserve meant for national emergencies.

The Biden administration has since begun refilling the oil reserve, which had more than 364 million barrels of crude oil as of last month. The total is lower than levels before the Russia-Ukraine war but still the world’s largest emergency crude oil supply.

The Northeast sale will require that fuel is transferred or delivered no later than June 30, the Energy Department said.

“While congressional Republicans fight to preserve tax breaks for Big Oil at the expense of hardworking families, President Biden is advancing a more secure, affordable, and clean energy future to lower utility bills while record American energy production helps meet our immediate needs,” Jean-Pierre said.

Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

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