Hawaii premium for gas has been growing

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The difference between Hawaii gasoline prices and those on the mainland, which had narrowed last fall, have now widened again, as local prices rise far more quickly than those on the West Coast.

As recently as September, according to data from the Oil Price Information Service, the gap between the national average and the Hawaii average was less than 60 cents a gallon. Now it's more than 70 cents. Prices both here and on the mainline fell from October to the end of December but have been rising since.

The AAA average price of self-serve regular gasoline in Honolulu was $4.03 on Monday morning, 14 cents more than it was a month ago. Increases have actually been smaller in Hilo and Wailuku, the only other towns in the state where AAA does daily surveys. Wailuku prices are usually higher than Hilo's but in recent weeks they have come closer together, above $4.05 but below $4.10.

California has also seen some unusual pricing recently, with Los Angeles average regular at $3.77, up 17 cents in one month, and a nickel more than the average price in San Francisco, where gas usually costs more than it does in L.A.

Hawaii, Alaska and California typically have the most expensive gasoline, but at the moment gasoline sells for $3.83 a gallon in New York City, more than Los Angeles.

AAA hires OPIS to electronically harvest the last credit card receipts of the night from selected stations in thousands of cities nationwide. The data are accurate to the degree that those stations reflect the prices of all stations.

Gas stations price according to how much the retailer paid the middleman for the fuel, mindful of what the station down the street is charging, even if the two are resupplied with cheaper or more expensive fuel on different days of the week.

Jobbers charge more to serve stations that are farther away. Mortgage or rent payments on the property figure in as well. On neighbor islands, the lack of competition for suppliers can mean higher prices. Maui has a gasoline tax that the other counties don't. And if a station has a thriving business in its convenience store operation, it may reduce its gasoline profit margin to draw business to the store.

Although Hawaii usually has the most expensive per gallon prices in the nation, it also has some of the shortest average commuting distances.

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.