Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nation’s Highest Gas Prices Reach Historic Levels; Hawaii Drivers Have Never Had To Pay This Much

The old Honolulu TV tire commercial said: “Go now, Hawaii. Why pay more?” The answer, of course, is because we have to.

How does it feel to be paying more for gasoline than ever? According to the AAA, the average price for regular gas in Honolulu today is $4.40, and the statewide average is $4.512.

We’ve finally surpassed the prices reached in the summer of 2008, when oil topped out at $147 per barrel. But oil’s nowhere near that level today. Brent crude is listed at $122.36, and the price of W. Texas Intermediate crude is $107.63.

The difference between 2008 and today’s crude prices is yet another wakeup call for Hawaii residents. There’s something else going on that’s driving up Hawaii’s retail gasoline prices that isn’t apparent from the oil price alone.

We’ll leave the analysis to our friends at the University of Hawaii. But little analysis is needed to conclude that if the cost of driving continues upward so alarmingly, the Honolulu rail system has broken ground none too soon.

Cost and convenience are the two main reasons why people switch from driving their own car to taking the public’s transit, and they surely will influence ridership on Honolulu rail’s system a few years from now.

Barclays Capital forecasts $185/barrel oil by the end of this decade, just about the time Honolulu’s 20-mile system will be fully operational. Oil anywhere near that level combined with those influences on what we'll be paying at the pump will surely make Honolulu’s system a success.

“Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.” It was true for a baseball diamond carved out of an Iowa cornfield, and it’ll be true for Honolulu rail. People most definitely will ride.

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