Isle motorists economize as gas prices rise anew


POSTED: Friday, June 05, 2009

Hawaii had the highest-priced gasoline in the country this week, with prices on Maui already over $3 a gallon and the statewide average creeping closer to that mark.

Yesterday's statewide average of $2.86 a gallon was 2 cents higher than the second-highest state, Michigan. That is 12 cents higher than a week ago and 37 cents up from last month at this time.

Hawaii motorists are feeling the pinch and are preparing for more increases.

“;Maybe we're not going to use our car if the price is still going up,”; said Derek Gouland, 45, husband and father of three children. “;Maybe we're going to use the bus. We cannot afford. We struggle. We spent more than $100 a month for gas.”;

Construction worker Todd Yokoyama, 49, expected to pay $48 to fill up his half-ton pickup truck but instead paid $59 yesterday at Lex Brodie's in Kakaako.

“;Every little cent adds up,”; he said. “;Everything else is going up—a nickel and dime here. It hurts the pocketbook.”;

On Maui, regular, self-serve unleaded sold for $3.11 a gallon, 9 cents higher than a week ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. Honolulu averaged $2.78 a gallon, while in Hilo the price was $2.92 a gallon.

Charlotte Townsend has no choice but to drive a gas-guzzling minivan from Makakilo to work in Kakaako since it is adjustable for use with her wheelchair.

“;I'm hoping it doesn't rise above $3,”; she said. “;Weekends I try not to come in to town, and consolidate trips—all the things we did when prices were over $4.”;

Max Reyes, 60, said, “;Gas prices have gone up in a really short time. Nothing we can do because it's about tax stuff and politics. That's a lot of money, whatever millions Lingle has to get back.”;

Beginning July 1 a general excise tax exemption for ethanol will expire, and gas prices will go up about 10 cents.

The nationwide average was $2.57 yesterday, 12 cents higher than the previous week and 50 cents higher than a month ago.

“;Oil industry analysts are saying that like last year, commodities investors are pushing up oil and wholesale gasoline prices at a pace that seems to have no connection to domestic fuel consumption or availability,”; Richard Velazquez, AAA Hawaii regional manager, said in a news release.

Crude oil settled at $68.81 yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oil prices have rallied for three months, and they soared this week to their highest levels since November. Crude now fetches nearly twice its February price, mostly on the expectation that the dismal U.S. economy could be stabilizing.

Prices are still below last year's record-setting highs.

On June 4 of last year, the statewide average was $4.14 a gallon en route to a record of $4.51 on July 31. The Honolulu average was $4.06 a gallon a year ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.