Author Gathering Place

Lyndell Yuu

Monday, March 1, 2004

Gas price caps will destroy
livelihoods -- and lives

Last month, more than three dozen of us -- gasoline dealers and jobbers from all over the state -- left our small businesses and traveled to the state Capitol. We spent three hours in a hearing room, hoping to persuade members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection to kill a bill that imposes price caps on all grades of gasoline and diesel fuel.

We testified that gasoline price caps won't lower prices and most likely will put many of us out of business. We talked about our business costs -- rents, mortgages, payroll, insurance, utilities -- hoping to make legislators understand that capping the price we can charge for gas will not allow us to cover our overhead. It wasn't easy for us to be there. We had to leave our businesses for a day. Those from neighbor islands had to pay for airline tickets. But our livelihoods are on the line; we had to make lawmakers understand how bad this legislation is.

Most of the time, only two of the committee's members were present: Chairman Ron Menor and Sen. Rosalyn Baker. How disappointing! This is such an important issue to so many businesses and constituents that it is incredible that other committee members did not deem it important enough to hear testimony from 40-plus businesses and individuals opposing it.

Two days later, the committee approved the bill, just as if we had never testified.

I work for a ChevronTexaco gasoline station dealer and my husband has worked for the Oahu ChevronTexaco jobber from the onset of that business. The jobber/wholesaler market was created for small, bulk customers that the oil companies could not afford to service. There are 13 jobbers in the state and each provides a valuable service to a cross section of each island. This bill will hurt neighbor island rural areas because in the gas-pricing formula there is no margin allocated for the jobbers to supply them.

On Maui, Senator Baker's home island, I would guess the small Chevron station in Hana would close because no jobber would deliver gasoline to them for free and absorb delivery costs and wear to his tanker truck. Hana's County Base Yard, East Maui Irrigation and Hana Hotel inevitably would be cut from service for the same reason.

Calasa Station, Ace Hardware and Ching Store Upcountry also could lose their supplier and supply. Ulupalakua Ranch and Kaupo Ranch would have to find a way to pick up their own gasoline and diesel in a safe and economical way. On the west side, Honolua Store, Honokahau Store, Sheraton Hotel, the boats in Lahaina Harbor and even Maui Pine Honolua would face the same dilemma.

These small businesses and families have workers, vendors and their own families to support. Where will they go when they lose their fuel supply?

These would be just some of the victims. Consumers would lose, too. The Federal Trade Commission and the experts who wrote the Stillwater report agree that the price cap won't lower the cost of gasoline, and will hurt or kill small businesses. Proponents of the bill may feel that they are attacking Shell, Conoco/Phillips/76, Tesoro and ChevronTexaco -- but Big Oil can exit this market, leaving behind our neighbors, families and friends who are part of a network of businesses that need oil companies to survive.

Many businesses and people have good working relationships with their respective jobbers and are threatened by the actions of a few activists with personal agendas.

My husband and I both work in the gasoline business. Both of us pay taxes, spend money, contribute to church and charity and are good citizens. There are many individuals and families like mine who will suffer. And along with us the economy will take another hit, and Hawaii's business climate will suffer more shame.

There is still time to shelve this bad legislation and repeal the gas cap set to take effect this summer. There is still time to protect our livelihoods.

Legislators, we have taken the time to tell you how badly this will hurt us. Please take the time to listen.

Lyndell Yuu, former owner of a petroleum wholesale company, works for a Chevron dealer.


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