Gas price caps to drop 10 cents
The decrease comes as legislators consider changes to the law
Wholesale price caps on gasoline are set to decrease by a dime come Monday, according to the latest figures posted by the state Public Utilities Commission.
The decrease marks the largest drop of 2006 so far and comes on top of a 3-cent decline in the price caps for this week.
Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to weigh different measures aimed at tweaking the law that took effect last September.
Many of the proposals, including the key changes being pushed by Senate Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor, have yet to be scheduled for hearings as lawmakers wade through the thousands of bills introduced in the early days of the session.
One bill that has been scheduled for a hearing next week would give the governor broad authority to waive the gas price cap law in the event of a natural disaster anywhere that substantially disrupts fuel supplies in the islands.
The governor would have "blanket authority and would have to have minimal justification for it," said Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Tantalus-Makiki), who introduced the proposal in the House.
"The idea is that if another hurricane hits the Gulf Coast or if, God forbid, something happens to our islands, then we don't want the gas cap to be complicating our fuel supply situation," he said. "This will give the legislation better opportunity to be successful."
Majority Democrats appear unlikely to repeal the cap, despite a push from Gov. Linda Lingle and a proposal signed by 12 House Democrats to strike down the law.
None of those measures has been scheduled for hearings.
"I think it remains to be seen" whether a repeal proposal will advance, said Schatz, "but what's clear is we need to make improvements in the law."
The law sets the maximum price for wholesale gas sold in Hawaii based on an average of spot prices in three mainland markets. Those spot prices closely follow trends in crude oil prices.
The drop in next week's cap comes as crude-oil prices slipped below $63 a barrel yesterday after the U.S. government reported that crude stocks fell slightly in the last week but gasoline inventories increased sharply.
Relatively mild winter weather in the United States contributed to the decline, as did the lack of major new developments on the volatile political front with Iran, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' second-largest oil producer.
By Monday, if wholesalers charged up to the maximum allowed by law, prices for regular unleaded are expected to range from $2.69 a gallon on Oahu to $3.06 a gallon on Lanai.
Meanwhile, yesterday's statewide average for regular gasoline was $2.88 a gallon, 55 cents above the national average, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.