Rise in gas prices is the normal winter occurrence, dealers say

A Lawa’i man gassing up a rented van in Lihu’e Monday morning noticed the published price at the pump was higher than what he paid over the weekend.

A Lihu’e woman has even more exact information, saying that since the day after Christmas, her Lihu’e station of choice had upped the price on her nine cents a gallon, on consecutive weeks, the latest increase noted last Thursday.

Local dealers point to a normal winter factor, increased use of fuel oil to heat homes on the Mainland, coupled with an ongoing strike of oil workers in Venezuela that is taking two million barrels of production per day off the market.

In the winter months, the increased use of fuel oil for Mainland homes decreases available supplies, causing the price of a barrel of oil to rise, so end users like Kaua’i motorists end up paying more, explained Sheilah Rego, owner and operator of both Lihue Shell and Hanamaulu Service.

Prices are expected to keep climbing, but not like they did four years ago, before stabilizing, she said.

If the pump prices yesterday still reflected prices nine cents a gallon higher than a month ago, that meant prices were around $1.83 late last month.

Rego confirmed an eight-cent increase for regular unleaded gasoline, but said the increases started in September or October. “There’s various things that’s affecting the gas prices, but the main reason is it goes up this time of year, anyway,” mainly because of the increase in the per-barrel price.

“In the wintertime, the U.S. burns more crude oil.”

There are indications that prices may stabilize, as “OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is beginning to create an inventory of crude oil, to stabilize gas prices in the future, especially with the Venezuela incident that’s going on,” she said.

“They have not expressed any comment on the issue,” Rego said of her suppliers. “They have always said that the reason prices go up is because of the cost of crude oil,” she said.

Here’s a look at some prices on the island yesterday, in late 2001, spring of 2001, and in early February of 2000, at select Lihu’e locations (prices are per gallon, regular gasoline):

– Paradise Service (Union 76): $1.92 on Monday, Jan. 27, 2003; $1.97 on Nov. 9, 2001; $2.07 on May 10, 2001; $1.71 on Feb. 8, 2000.

– Lihue Shell: $1.92 on Monday, Jan. 27, 2003; $1.96 on Nov. 9, 2001; $2.06 on May 10, 2001; $1.71 on Feb. 8, 2000.

– Gary’s Service (Chevron): $1.92 on Monday, Jan. 27, 2003; $1.97 on Nov. 9, 2001; $2.07 on May 10, 2001; $1.71 on Feb. 8, 2000.

Yesterday, the price for a gallon of self-service regular at Koloa Chevron was $1.90.

The U.S. average price for a gallon of gasoline, according to the Lundberg Survey of gas stations across the country, was $1.52 last week. That was an average of three grades (regular, plus and premium), and included self-serve and full-service stations.

The average national price for a gallon of self-service regular was $1.47 the week of Sunday, Jan. 12. Of metropolitan areas surveyed, Honolulu had the highest price, $1.69. Tulsa was lowest, at $1.29 a gallon.

The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline across the United States was $1.24 on Nov. 9, 2001; $1.76 in May, 2001; and $1.47 in February, 2000, according to the Lundberg Survey and Associated Press.

The gas prices keep on going up even as the state Senate is considering a resolution calling upon the state administration to take action to recover taxes owed the state by the Chevron Texaco oil company.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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