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Hawaii Island Motorists Feel the Financial Hardship at Gas Pump

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The pain at the pump is real for Hawaii Island motorists. And those who spoke with Big Island Now all said they have never seen gas prices this high.

“It’s crazy. It’s stupid. And it’s nuts,” Jodi Pereira of Hilo said on Thursday, March 24, while she pumped gas at the Hele station on the corner of Kaūmana Drive and ‘Āinakō Avenue, near the Mohouli intersection, in Hilo.

Motorists stop to put gasoline in their vehicles Thursday, March 24, at the Hele station at the corner of Kaūmana Drive and ‘Āinakō Avenue in Hilo. (Photos by Nathan Christophel)

She’s spending about $50 more for gasoline now on average, and filling up her truck’s gas tank from empty takes nearly $90. She uses her truck for work, so she drives a lot. She’s also been topping off the tank about every four days as of late.

Pereira had just one thing to say about how much more she’s spending on gas now.

“Too much. Too much,” she said.

Her daughter, who drives a more gas-friendly Honda Civic, can’t even escape the pocketbook-draining gas prices. Pereira said her daughter filled up the Civic just the other day and it cost $54.

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“It’s more, but then you wonder, yeah? Do I really have to go where I gotta go? So then you think about your plan,” Pereira said. “I’m a planner, so I try to go farthest out and then work my way in. But still, it is really stupid. It’s dumb. To spend $5 a gallon?”

The price for a gallon of regular gasoline on Thursday at the Hele station was $5.12, or $5.02 when paying with cash. That’s was a little less than the average price for the Big Island, which stood at $5.19 Thursday, according to fuel savings platform GasBuddy.

Hilo resident Ashley Santo puts gasoline into her vehicle Thursday at the Hele station on Kaūmana Drive, near the Mohouli intersection, in Hilo.

The average price for the Hilo area was $5.05 per gallon as of Thursday, but other locations around the island weren’t faring as well. The average price per gallon for the Kailua-Kona area was nearly $5.26. It was even more in the Ocean View area, where the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline stood at almost $5.41.

Meanwhile, for the United States as a whole, the average price at the pump actually decreased for the first time in 12 weeks, falling 9 cents to about $4.24 per gallon. That’s still an increase of about 70 cents from the average price of $3.58 in February and a whopping $1.40 more than the average of $2.87 for all of last year. That’s according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 11 million price reports from more than 150,000 gas stations throughout the nation.

“While the decline is still subject to changes in global supply and demand, COVID and Russia’s war on Ukraine, we are poised to see additional downdrafts at the pump this week,” said Patrick De Haan, chief of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, in a Monday, March 21 blog entry.

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The blog entry showed that Hawai’i was one of the three states with the highest average gas prices as of Monday, at $5.05 per gallon. California had the highest average gas price at $5.85 and Nevada came in second with an average price per gallon of $5.08. The states with the lowest average prices were Oklahoma at $3.75 for a gallon of regular gasoline, Kansas at $3.78 and Missouri at $3.80 per gallon.

De Haan added that, for now, the demand for gasoline is showing no signs of buckling under the pressure of higher prices.

“If the situation does worsen, with more oil being kept away from global markets, it’s not impossible that gas prices would still have to climb a considerable amount for Americans to start curbing their insatiable demand for gasoline,” he said in the blog entry.

An attendant at the Hele station said she’s been hearing a lot of complaints from customers that the price at the pump just continues to climb, but added that it is what it is because of supply and demand. She said it’s all demand right now but no supply because of everything going on in Europe.

Craig Chow, of Hilo, who normally uses a mid-level grade of gasoline that’s about 20 cents more expensive than a regular gallon but was using the less expensive option Thursday at the Hele station, echoed those comments.

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“It can’t be helped, with the crisis in Europe right now, and I understand that,” Chow told Big Island Now. “It’s just the way it is.”

A gas pump shows Thursday that $10 paid for less than 2 gallons of gasoline at the Hele station on Kaūmana Drive in Hilo.

Thursday was the first time he filled up since the war in Ukraine began at end of February. He drives a hybrid vehicle, but still had to spend nearly $40 Thursday just for half a tank.

Ashley Santo, of Hilo, said she’s been spending almost $30 more on average for gas with prices so high. She used to spend just $30 to fill up her tank, but even with putting in an additive and spending an extra $10 on Thursday at the Hele station, her gas tank still wasn’t full.

“I have a Civic, but already, I’m starting to feel it,” said Santo.

She works at a parts store and sees oil and gas prices going up. Her family owns a tire business, so she also is aware of how those costs are moving. Santo said as the price of gasoline increases, more Big Island residents could suffer.

“The higher the gas prices go, the more people are gonna struggle — (the) economy already, as is, is hard,” she said. “Even if you get paid above minimum wage, it’s already hard.”

And it doesn’t look like gas prices are going to get much better anytime soon, either.

According to a March 8 story from the Associated Press, normally fuel prices rise in spring and summer as Americans drive and fly more.

“Demand could also get a boost as countries continue to shed their COVID-19 restrictions,” the story said. “Those trends suggest that pump prices are heading higher, with demand continuing to outstrip supply.”

“It’s not going to be a good summer for motorists,” De Haan said in the AP story.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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