Gas report has ‘very little value’
Gasoline pricing reports prepared from data submitted by the state's oil industry were made public yesterday for the first time.
The report was assailed almost immediately by one critic, who called the information "of very little value" to consumers and lawmakers trying to find out what goes into Hawaii's fuel costs, which typically rank among the highest in the country.
"You're just as dumb today as you were yesterday about what goes on in the industry," said Tim Hamilton, a mainland oil price analyst who has helped craft some of the state's legislative proposals on monitoring the oil companies. "There is nothing here."
An oil industry representative cautioned that the data shows only a "snapshot" of the market and that more information will be gleaned as the weekly reports continue to be made public every Wednesday.
"We'll be watching for larger trends," said Melissa Pavlicek, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association, an industry trade group. "I think that information will provide a much clearer picture of what's happening."
The report released yesterday covers the period from June 25 to July 1. It reaches no conclusions or findings of fact.
For example, the report shows the wholesale price for regular gasoline on Oahu during that time was about $2.30 a gallon, but the price does not necessarily reflect what a gas station paid wholesale before selling it at the pump.
The $2.30 average includes transactions for conventional regular unleaded, regular gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol and the lower-octane stock that is used to make the 10 percent blend, the PUC said. It also does not include any taxes, which add as much as 60 cents to a gallon of gas on Oahu, or dealer markup.
The average price of a gallon of gas at the pump that week was $3.31 on Oahu.
There were no statewide figures. The PUC reported the data for each of eight zones across the state: Oahu, Kauai, Maui excluding Hana, Hana, Molokai, Lanai, Hilo and Kona.
Hamilton criticized the report for lacking any numbers showing profits.
"Who's making the money? You don't know," he said. "You don't know what they charged the dealers, so you can't tell how much they make."
The Public Utilities Commission is required to release the weekly reports under "transparency" rules adopted by the state Legislature.
Twenty-seven companies submitted reports on a variety of operational factors, such as the volume of fuel imported and exported, the costs of the fuel at various points in the supply chain and their weekly gross margins.
In its brief, four-page report, the PUC published information on inventories of gasoline and diesel stocks, and on retail and wholesale transaction prices throughout the gasoline supply chain.
However, because there are only two oil refiners in the state, some information had to be kept confidential for competitive reasons, the PUC said. For example, releasing the total amount of crude oil inventory for both refiners would allow each competitor to calculate the other's stock.
The PUC noted that as more reports are turned in, it will look to "refine and expand" the weekly reports to add analysis of trends and provide insight on market behavior over time.
"I'm hopeful that this is going to be just another set of information that will help people realize the dynamic marketplace and give them a better understanding of the petroleum industry," Pavlicek said.
The report can be found at www.hawaii.gov/budget/puc/pimar.html.