Gas prices continue to slide
Hawaii's average still leads the nation despite the drop in the gas cap
WITH CRUDE OIL prices dipping to some of their lowest points since June, the steady decline of gasoline prices in Hawaii, and elsewhere, is likely to continue into next week's Thanksgiving holiday.
For six straight weeks, average retail gas prices have dropped nationwide, falling below $2.30 a gallon for the first time since early August, the federal Energy Information Administration said this week.
Hawaii's price cap on wholesale gasoline has followed that trend.
The state Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to publish next week's caps later today.
Preliminary calculations by the Star-Bulletin indicate the caps could drop by as much as 9 cents -- the sixth-straight week they have declined. Since Oct. 17, the maximum price at which wholesale gas can be sold has fallen 80 cents.
Despite the drop in the price cap, Hawaii's statewide average for regular continues to lead the country at $2.77 a gallon, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report. The auto club bases its survey on credit card transactions from the previous day at more than 85,000 stations nationwide, including 222 in Hawaii.
Opponents say Hawaii's prices are higher than elsewhere because the cap artificially ties the state's prices to three mainland markets that otherwise would have no effect on the islands. Supporters say Hawaii's prices have always been higher than elsewhere and the law is working as intended by forcing island prices to track more closely to mainland trends.
Next week, if wholesalers charge up to the maximum allowed, the price for regular unleaded on Oahu is projected to be about $2.46 a gallon after taxes. The highest-priced gas would be on Lanai, at $2.83 a gallon. The statewide average could dip to about $2.63.
Estimates assume a dealer mark-up of 12 cents, although such charges vary from station to station and are not governed by the price cap.
Nationwide, pump prices are still about 33 cents higher than a year ago. After peaking above $3 in September after the devastation to Gulf Coast oil operations from Hurricane Katrina, prices have retreated because of the recovery of oil production and refining facilities, increased imports from Europe and a slight moderation of demand.
Gas prices have followed the trend of crude oil prices.
Crude-oil futures fell below $57 a barrel yesterday on forecasts that U.S. oil inventories likely grew in the past week and that high oil prices are dampening global demand.
Light, sweet crude for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 71 cents to settle at $56.98 a barrel -- the lowest settlement price since June 30, when the price settled at $56.50.
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.