Gas Prices High, Price Gouging Bill Stalls

Rep. Robert Herkes
Rep. Robert Herkes

HONOLULU (KHNL) - When it comes to the highest gas prices in the nation Hawaii no longer comes in as number one. That ranking now goes to California.

For once Hawaii is not leading the country with the highest gas prices. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.70. That's up more than ten cents from a year ago, but still thirty cents below the highest average price recorded in September of 2005.

California leads the nation with gas at $3.27. Hawaii is now second with an average price of $2.98. In fact, the top five are all western states. Nevada, Washington and Oregon follow the Aloha State.

Back in Hawaii, on Oahu, Honolulu drivers are paying $2.88 for a gallon of regular gasoline. That is up 13 cents from a month ago. From Oahu we take a look at prices on the island of Hawaii where Hilo drivers pay $2.99. Maui drivers are paying the most. The price of regular unleaded is at $3.24 in Wailuku. And finally on Kauai the price for regular unleaded sits at $3.05 a gallon. The state has seen a ten cent increase in a month.

The Lingle administration wants to protect Hawaii drivers should any abnormal disruptions like earthquakes or hurricanes cause gas prices to go up. A bill that went before lawmakers Tuesday is aimed at preventing price gouging on gas in Hawaii if a major disaster happened anywhere in the world. Anyone caught could face prosecution. The bill was introduced by the Lingle administration. However, a house committee deferred it.

"Why pass something that really doesn't make any sense? If you've got something happening in Iran right now which is causing the price to go up, it's a worldwide market. When we start thinking that we can control it here it's just not realistic' said State Representative Robert Herkes.

 There is already a similar law protecting consumers against price gouging during any local natural disaster.

Stephen Levins, of the state's Office of Consumer Protection, says deferring the bill basically killed it for this session. Levins says it would've been a good tool for law enforcement officials to protect Hawaii consumers.