Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rep. Caldwell wants more specific answers on petroleum industry profits

House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell expects the 2008 Legislature to refine the oil monitoring program in order to get to more specific information on petroleum industry profits.

In The Honolulu Advertiser's story about how our gasoline prices would be less today if the gas price cap was still in effect, Caldwell said that we should keep the full price cap in suspension and work on improving the reporting and monitoring system. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) also recommends not reinstating the gas cap, pursuant to the findings of the PIMAR Annual 2007 Report, just released last Friday. According to the report, the cap would have forced low prices today, but created artificially high prices in the spring.

Here are some pertinent points from the PUC report summary:
  • Refinery profit margins are lower than on the Mainland, but dealer and supplier margins, which drive our gas prices higher, are higher than on the mainland.

  • Pump prices generally tracked world prices.

  • Pump prices aren't caused by "collective" price changes.
Caldwell doesn't think that the report reveals enough detail. He said that it gives us good insight into the oil industry, but we still don't know if the excessive profits are being made or if the system is working fairly.

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