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Crowley slams Bush on rising gasoline costs

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U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) called on President Bush last week to offer New Yorkers an immediate reprieve for skyrocketing energy costs, which are forcing many Queens drivers to shell out some $2 per gallon at the pumps.

Crowley held a joint news conference last week with U.S. Rep Steve Israel (D-Bay Shore, L.I.) at the Texaco gas station on Queens Boulevard and 66th Street in Woodside, one day after the president released a much-hyped report outlining his national energy policy.

Although Crowley applauded Bush for producing an energy plan, he said it “looked more like the annual stockholder’s report for Exxon than an energy plan for (the country).”

With Memorial Day weekend approaching, a spot check of pump prices in Queens by the TimesLedger staff this week revealed costs averaging about $1.85 for self-service regular and $2.05 for super. Both customers and gas station owners were scrambling to keep up while politicians searched for an answer to the country’s growing energy crunch.

Standing in front of the full-service pumps where the cheapest gas cost $1.999 a gallon, Crowley and Israel criticized Bush’s plan for providing insufficient short-term remedies for high fuel prices and failing to adequately emphasize conservation measures and energy efficiency.

“It looks green on the outside but black on the inside,” Israel said. “It doesn’t provide enough balance in the areas of conservation and energy efficiency.”

Bush’s report outlines his plans to avert a potential energy shortfall by increasing domestic production of oil and gas.

Crowley called Bush’s proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling a “pipeline dream” which will do nothing to alleviate the current price squeeze faced by motorists.

“It’s over $2 a gallon and climbing,” he said, gesturing to the gas pumps behind him. “We need to see more immediate solutions.”

Drivers in Queens want some relief.

Rocky Raghunandan of South Ozone Park was filling up at a gas station in Richmond Hill this week where the cheapest price was $1.85 for self-service regular unleaded.

“It’s crazy,” said Raghunandan, who said he drives an estimated 100 miles each day for his delivery job. “I look for the cheapest place and I’m all over it. Unless I’m about to run out of gas I don’t stop.”

In Holliswood where gas prices ranged from $1.83 a gallon for self-service regular to $1.93 for full-service regular, a Jamaica man also lamented the rising prices.

“It’s always too much,” Jamaica resident Flinch Ball said while pumping gas at the Exxon station on Hillside Avenue and 202nd Street in Holliswood.

“It’s money right out of your pocket,” Ball said, adding that the gas money might as well be deducted directly out of his paycheck.

Prices in northeast Queens ranged from $1.85 for self-service regular in Bayside and Flushing to between $1.99 and $2.05 a gallon for the best grades at self-service pumps.

Along the Long Island Expressway in Queens Village, the cost of self-service varied from $1.83 for regular to $2.01 for super. In Holliswood self-service prices at one gas station ranged from $1.85 for regular to $2.15 for super.

In western Queens full-service gas prices were $1.89 for regular in Astoria to $2.05 for super and in Forest Hills at $1.89 for regular and $2.10 for super.

At least one gas station owner in Flushing was also cringing at the high prices this week.

Boris Gorin, manager of the Citgo at Northern Boulevard and 154th Street where self-service prices were $1.85 for regular gas and $2.01 for super, said one out of every 10 of his customers complain about the prices.

“Let me give you a simple example,” he said, lighting up a Marlboro red. “If Citgo sells me gas at $1 and I sell it for $1.10, how much profit do I make? Ten cents. Now if the company sells it at $1.80 and I sell it for $1.90, I still make 10 cents.”

To address the emerging energy crisis, Crowley and Israel said they were introducing the Tax and Energy Cost Relief Act, which Israel said “will provide working families with tax credits and expanded tax deductions for the purchase of energy-efficient equipment and the cost of weatherizing their homes.”

The congressmen called on Bush to investigate allegations that the domestic fuel industry has colluded to artificially hike prices, and asked him to demand that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries increase its oil production.

Paul Tourlis, the dealer at the Texaco station where the news conference was held, said recent customer complaints about gas prices have not been out of the ordinary even though prices had climbed 9 cents in the prior week.

“They complained when the price was 20 cents,” said Tourlis, who has seen his share of price fluctuations in the 30 years he has managed the station.

—The TimesLedger staff contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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