Gas price could fall 12 cents next week
Three neighbor isles may also see gas below $3 a gallon
Wholesale gasoline price caps are expected to drop again next week, potentially bringing prices below $3 a gallon at some neighbor island pumps.
The state Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to publish the new caps later today. Preliminary calculations by the Star-Bulletin indicate a drop of about 12 cents.
If wholesalers charged up to the maximum allowed, the price for regular unleaded on Oahu is projected to cost about $2.81 a gallon after taxes. Prices would be about $2.92 on Kauai, $2.97 on most parts of Maui excluding Hana, $2.89 in Hilo and $2.91 in Kona.
Lanai would have the highest projected cost at $3.18 a gallon, while Molokai would be at $3.08.
Estimates include an assumed dealer mark-up of 12 cents, although such charges vary from station to station and are not governed by the price cap.
Hawaii's statewide average for regular unleaded first topped $3 on Sept. 6, and has been the highest in the country since about that time.
Price on Oahu dipped below $3 this week at some stations, as price caps that were 44 cents lower than a week ago took effect Monday.
Lex Brodie's in Kakaako ran out of regular unleaded by mid-afternoon after selling it at $2.95 a gallon for the second straight day. Marketing manager Bill Gray set the price after checking out local competitors.
"It usually lasts longer than that, but today, I think because we were the lowest on the island, people found us," Gray said.
Gray said the shortage prompted him to sell premium gasoline at the mid-grade price, and that supply was expected to run out by closing time. He said supplies seemed to run out quicker because some drivers put off buying higher-priced gas.
"People who came in had less gas," he said.
He said another delivery of gas was scheduled this morning, and he would again set the price lower than local competition.
Meanwhile, yesterday's statewide average of $3.49 a gallon was 54 cents higher than runner-up Washington, D.C., and 75 cents above the national average, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report.
Gas cap opponents say the wide disparity is due to Hawaii's prices being artificially tied to three mainland markets -- the Gulf Coast, New York and Los Angeles -- that otherwise would have no impact on island prices because the state's two refiners import oil mostly from Asia and Alaska.
Supporters say the falling prices indicate the law is working, causing Hawaii's prices to track closer to mainland trends. Prices in the Gulf Coast have stabilized in recent weeks as oil facilities have recovered from the damage caused by hurricanes last month.
That trend could continue.
Crude-oil futures fell more than $1 a barrel yesterday as fears eased over the threat of Hurricane Wilma, with the strengthening storm looking more likely to avoid oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Prices jumped by a $1 a day earlier when it was feared the storm could follow a track similar to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Still, the approach of the Northern Hemisphere winter and the slow recovery of petroleum output in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita were expected to keep prices from falling too far. Concerns continue over the pace of recovery following Rita and whether supplies will be adequate as demand for heating oil peaks.
"There's a nervous feel on the floor right now," said Nymex natural-gas trader Ed Silliere of Energy Merchant in New York.
The Star-Bulletin's gas price calculations are based on prices listed by Bloomberg News Service, which vary slightly from benchmarks published by the Oil Price Information Service that the PUC uses in determining the price caps. Price cap calculations using Bloomberg data have varied from the PUC figures by as little as a fraction of a cent and by as much as 5 cents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.