Akaka presents Hawai‘i gas crisis to Senate

Gasoline and crude oil prices have hit all-time highs across the world, and costs at the pump are having a major impact on all Americans.

Hawaiians need to look no further than their nearest gas station to understand the impact of those prices.

According to the American Automobile Association, Hawai‘i ranks sixth-highest among 50 states in terms of average regular gas prices.

Only California ($4.539 per gallon), Alaska ($4.403), Connecticut ($4.362), Washington state ($4.257) and New York ($4.255) charge more than Hawai‘i’s $4.242 per gallon.

Hawai‘i has the nation’s highest average diesel price at $5.185 per gallon.

Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai‘i, made a statement on the Senate floor about the growing energy crisis, and explained that the fuel prices are impacting other segments of the local economy in a trickle-down effect.

“Hawai‘i depends on imported oil to supply more than 90 percent of our energy needs. The record-high crude oil prices cause higher processing charges for food and other manufactured items. The increase in cost for Hawai‘i’s food is due in large part to the higher cost of transporting the goods to the islands — 80 percent of Hawai‘i’s food products are imported via ship or airplane. Grocery prices have seen their biggest increase in nearly two decades,” he said.

“Furthermore, the high cost of jet fuel results in higher airfare prices and reduction in flights significantly limit travel for Hawai‘i residents and tourists. The reduction in visitors traveling to Hawai‘i could hurt our economy. While the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is proactively working to aggressively resuscitate the market, the hotel occupancy in April hit a five-year low.”

Akaka offered a solution, albeit a long-term one, that he hopes to work on with his Senate colleagues.

“By harnessing the sun, wind, ocean, and geothermal power to generate electricity, Hawai‘i is trying to reduce our heavy reliance on imported fuel and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“We must do all that we can to encourage the development and production of renewable and sustainable energy technologies from these natural resources. Achieving our goals will only be possible if we approach the problem as responsible stewards of our environment. Together, we will make an impact.”

Akaka’s remarks come as protests over soaring fuel costs made news around the globe.

According to The London Evening Standard, the Phillippines and Spain are experiencing fuel truck driver strikes. Spanish gas stations could soon be “running dry” as the drivers blockade major roads.

The Guardian reports that a similar four-day strike is soon to take effect in the United Kingdom, cutting off supplies to Shell locations that make up 10 percent of England’s gas stations, causing “panic” at the pump.

In the U.S., oil giant ExxonMobil announced that it would be looking to sell more than 2,000 of its stations in the coming years, saying that its retail gasoline business is no longer profitable despite record prices.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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