HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A dubious distinction for Hawaii tonight. We not only have the highest gas prices in the country, but today, we hit a record high. AAA says regular unleaded has now reached an average of $4.59 a gallon. Last year at this time, we were paying 27 cents less.
It's not only gas and cars. Rising petroleum prices have spilled over into other things like groceries, for instance. It's simply the cost of doing business these days.
In 30 years of importing and exporting produce to the islands, Ferrell Hughes has never had to belt-tighten quite like now. He's senior vice-president at Paramount Export Company - which, through Matson, ships in fruits and vegetables from around the world. He monitors rising gas prices - and his company's bottom line - daily.
"It means that you have to be vigilant on watching all your costs and especially, these fuel and transportation costs," explains Hughes.
Obviously, we feel the pinch at the pump, but rising gas prices can affect something as simple as a head of lettuce that we buy.
Matson currently tacks on a 45.5% fuel surcharge to Paramount Export's bill. Right now, Paramount says that equals $2,245 per container of produce. Each container holds 800 cartons - so, broken down even further, each carton has a $2.80 fuel surcharge. Each carton contains 24 heads of lettuce - so each head costs an additional 12 cents. And guess who pays that? The consumer.
U.H. economist Makena Coffman says it's not rising, but volatile, prices that could ultimately affect the economic recovery. "It's that sudden onset of rising oil prices that makes it really hard to adjust," says Coffman. "If oil prices rose steadily over time, well, then we could start planning a little bit better for that."
Planning for things like fuel-efficient vehicles or energy-saving home products. For now, businessmen like Ferrell Hughes say they'll absorb what costs they can - and cross their fingers that what goes up - will soon come down.
No one is immune to these rising gas prices. Here at Hawaii News Now, for instance, we have two dozen news vehicles. We spent about $30,000 last year for gas. This year, we budgeted $36,000 - a 20% increase.