Mililani resident Eric Collier looked yesterday at the $4.15-a-gallon price for regular at the French Wrench Shell Service Station on Ward Avenue in Honolulu and shook his head.
"It sucks big time," said Collier, who commutes more than 40 miles a day.
As Mideast tensions build and worries increase about the world supply of oil, gasoline prices in Honolulu and other parts of the state are rising, and some people say they’re driving less.
The average cost of a gallon of regular jumped 11 cents in Hawaii in a week to $4.15, according to AAA Hawaii.
Additionally, Japan’s shutdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima is pushing up its demand for the kind of light sweet crude oil imported by Hawaii refineries and also raising prices, said Albert Chee, spokesman for Chevron USA, one of the two Hawaii refineries.
The benchmark West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil ended at $105.40 per barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The national average of $3.56 per gallon is the highest ever for this time of year, although there is a comfortable surplus of oil in the United States.
The Energy Information Administration said the U.S. has enough oil in inventory to meet demand for 54 days. The surplus was 49 days in the summer of 2008. The U.S. consumes about 19.3 million barrels of petroleum per day.
What’s pushing oil prices higher is concern that global supplies will shrink this year as energy appetites grow around the world. The world is expected to use 88 million barrels of oil per day in 2011, up from 86.7 million in 2010. Meanwhile, uprisings in Libya, Yemen and other countries are threatening exports from a region that supplies 27 percent of the world’s oil. War in Libya has halted most of its 1.5 million barrels of daily exports.
AAA Hawaii said the cheapest gasoline in the United States continues to be in Wyoming, with an average of $3.34 a gallon.
The price of regular gasoline yesterday was $4.49 at Uptown Chevron in Wailuku, $4.49 at Aloha Shell in Kahului and $4.01 at Lex Brodie’s Tire Co. on Queen Street in Honolulu. Lex Brodie’s price for regular was $3.93 with a cash payment.
"It’s getting pretty wild," said Aloha Shell owner Paul Hanada.
"Even I don’t know where it’s going to end. Part of it is supply and demand. Part of it is speculation."
Hanada, who said he just raised his price by 10 cents a gallon Thursday, said he’s had difficulty making sure retail prices are adjusted upward to meet the rising cost of fuel.
In Los Angeles, independent service station owners have also been reluctant to raise prices based on the actual costs of fuel, said Sunny Campbell, executive director of the California Service Station and Automotive Repair Association.
"They want to keep their customers," Campbell said.
The average price was about $3.99 for regular there, he said.
David Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association, said he’s not hearing as many worries about buying gasoline-efficient cars as he did in 2008, when gasoline prices first went above $4 a gallon in Hawaii.
The prices later dropped below $4.
"They’ve seen it happen and they saw the price retreat," he said.
"Once you have an experience like that, you don’t make any radical decisions on something that momentary."
For Collier of Mililani the price jump has him walking sometimes rather than driving.
"I don’t drive to the store," he said. "Now I just walk."
| The average price of gasoline as of Thursday:
Source: AAA Hawaii Weekend Gas Watch