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Refiners in the Northeast region currently hold nearly 54 million barrels in gasoline stocks, a sizable cushion representing 24.4 days of supply that the energy firm said could grow thinner with the availability of the government reserves.

The department insists that it only intends to store enough gasoline to use in unforeseen emergencies and is not designing the gasoline reserve program to replace private stockpiles or deter refineries from keeping ample backup supplies on hand.