Blast 'em

This Blast 'em blog is going to shine a much needed bright light on legislative shanigans. We will provide details of the wrong doing, give names of the doer, and describe the ramifications to the public. Initially we will focus primarily on consumer issues.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


The following opinion piece is copied from the June 13th issue of the Honolulu Star Bulletin. It shows just how Hawaii consumers are once again being screwed by the Oil Industry and this time it is being done with the concurrence of our Governor, Linda Lingle. By saying she would never reinstate the Gas Cap she has given the oil companies her blessing to steal our money at the gas pump.

In case you forgot, Representative Marcus Oshiro went public with the statement that the Gas Cap had saved Hawaii consumers 32 Million dollars since it went into effect and two weeks later said “the Gas Cap is not working and we need to kill it”. This was followed by Rep. Kirk Caldwell who thought it was his job to voice the oil company’s position against the Cap and lead the charge in the House to kill the cap. The House members did all they could to make Senator Ron Menor the bad guy when in fact, time will show that Senator Menor was right all along. Well they got what the wished for, they killed the Gas Cap and the result is explained below in the Star Bulletin opinion piece. These House members all have to stand for re-election next November and voters would do well to remember who allowed the oil companies to have free access to their wallets once again.


Oil industry seizes advantage of uncapped gas prices
Average gasoline prices in the past five weeks show Hawaii motorists paid 10 cents more than price caps would have allowed.
WHEN gasoline prices soared after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, many motorists blamed Hawaii's price cap, which was based partly on that region's prices. Since Governor Lingle signed legislation that removed the caps, that theory has been disproved.
In the past five weeks, Hawaii's gas prices, implemented Sept. 1, have returned to their pre-cap pattern of hovering above mainland prices, unaffected by the dips and peaks of the marketplace. If the oligopoly continues to impose artificially high prices through the rest of this year, legislators should consider reinstating the caps.
The price limits, pegged to gas prices in New York, California and the Gulf Coast, allowed Hawaii's prices to rise to as much as $3.68 a gallon in the weeks following the Aug. 29 hurricane's destruction of oil facilities. The national average peaked at $3.08 a week after Katrina.
Since Lingle signed legislation lifting the caps on May 5, the state's average price has ranged from $3.38 to $3.43, averaging $3.41 -- a dime more than it would have averaged if the caps still were in place. Adding Singapore prices to the equation, as proposed by Senate Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor, could have forced the price down by an additional 27 cents, to $3.04 a gallon.
The national average over the same period was $2.88 a gallon, rising and falling by 80 cents, and is now priced at an average of $2.90. Nathan Hokama, a spokesman for Tesoro Hawaii Corp., claims that gasoline pricing "has reverted back to a free market system and the retail and wholesale levels," but the lack of fluctuation in Hawaii's prices shows otherwise.
Menor, who authored the gas-cap law, told the Star- Bulletin's B.J. Reyes that the pricing during the five-week period "demonstrates that our gas pricing law had been working previously." He said the prices confirm his expectation "that the oil companies would return to their old pricing practices of keeping prices high even as mainland prices were falling."
Price increases on the mainland have been attributed to the rising cost of crude oil, which accounts for about 60 percent of gasoline costs. That price peaked at $75.17 a barrel in May -- more than triple the cost five years ago, when gasoline cost $1.40 a gallon -- but fell below $70 a barrel last week. That could cause gasoline prices to fall on the mainland, but don't expect Hawaii's prices to follow.
The high gas prices on the mainland have lowered consumer demand by families trying to cope with increased food costs and interest rates. That has been countered by growing demand for oil by China, India and other emerging economies. The war in Iraq has disrupted oil supplies.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It was bound to happen; the 2005 legislature passed a so-called transit tax. They increased the General Excise Tax (GET) from 4% to 4.5%, supposedly to pay for a mass transit system. This increase will raise billions of dollars over a ten year period. Naturally, they raised the tax while having no idea what kind of mass transit system would be built or how much it would cost initially or long-term.

The tax increase goes into effect on 1/1/07 and the Mayor and Governor are fighting over collection of the increase. Governor Lingle claims the state needs a 5 million dollar payment from the city to fund the collection and Mayor Hannemann says that would be nice but the law doesn’t require it.

My question is: why does it cost more to collect 4.5% than 4.0%. The state is already collecting 4.0% if they collect 4.5% and write a check to the state for one ninth of the amount collected (the amount of the transit tax) why does this cost more than collecting 4.0% and not writing any check? So why does Governor Lingle demand five million dollars for setting it up? What am I missing here? I knew with all this new money floating around it wouldn’t be long before the politicians would start fighting over the spoils.

Meanwhile, just like every other time we got serious about mass transit the first thing we spend money on is a study. The others are all gathering dust somewhere, never to see the light of day again while another consulting firm is pulling in hundreds of thousand dollars to do yet another study. On top of all this waste, the last time we looked at mass transit, many of the local architectural firms were awarded contracts to design stations. Each firm designed one unique, grandiose station. This means more money could be wasted then if one firm designed one station that could be replicated for every stop along the transit line.

To make matters worse, the mayor has traveled all over the world to see fixed rail systems, steel on steel, the noisiest systems money can buy. Rubber on steel is very quiet. The vast majority of the public believes the mayor is hell-bent on fixed rail and are convinced this is what we will get, whether or not it is best for us.

Every time mass transit is discussed, a big part of the justification is the millions and millions of federal dollars that will flow into our coffers with little or no concern for the operating costs that will be sucking millions of dollars out of our economy for decades to come.