June 4, 2004 – The Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department has granted sharp increases in retail fuel rates for St. Croix 20 cents per gallon for premium and regular gasoline and 7 cents per gallon for diesel because of equivalent hikes in the rates charged local dealers by their supplier, the Hovensa refinery.
"Although DLCA is aware of the record highs of crude oil prices, we were totally unprepared for this recent Hovensa increase, Commissioner Andrew Rutnik said in a release.
He expressed hope that the pledge issued by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday to increase oil production "will result in the price of crude declining enough to bring relief to our beleaguered consumers."
The department had issued a notice on Tuesday that, effective immediately, gasoline wholesalers and retailers and marine fuel stations would be required to request in writing and receive in writing from DLCA permission to increase fuel prices. (See "Permission in Writing Needed to Raise Fuel Prices".)
Rutnik first instituted a 30-day price freeze territorywide on April 1. But within a week he made an exception on St. Croix after Hovensa, which supplies the island's retailers, raised its prices.
For the latest hike, "DLCA will only allow the increase from Hovensa to be passed through to consumers," a release issued on Friday stated. "No additional associated costs will be permitted until further notice."
St. Thomas Increases Far Less Than National Average
Meantime, for St. Thomas and St. John, there was relatively good news regarding pump prices, according to the release.
From April 28 through May 28, prices did go up slightly, but at rates far below the national average. The increases per gallon on St. Thomas amounted to 2 cents for full-service premium, 4 cents for full-service regular and self-service premium and regular, and 2 cents for diesel fuel.
During the period May 2-June 1, the release stated, per-gallon pump prices rose 21 cents nationwide, including 31 cents in New York State and 16 cents in California.
At the end of May, according to the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, the average price of regular gasoline nationwide was $2.051 per gallon, up from $1.473 a year ago.
Regionally, averages ranged from $1.925 per gallon along the Gulf Coast to $2.107 in New England and $2.291 on the West Coast, including $2.327 in California, which has the nation's most stringent environmental regulations on fuel.
For St. Thomas, the DLCA reported, as of May 21, gas stations on average were selling full-service premium at $2.37 a gallon, full-service regular at $2.27, self-service premium at $2.32, self-service regular at $2.23 and diesel at $2.07. St. John rates have typically been a few cents more than on St. Thomas.
To minimize costs, Rutnik recommended that motorists opt for self-service fueling where available, use regular gas unless their vehicles specifically call for premium, and carpool as often as possible.
The DLCA may be contacted for further information by calling 774-3130 on St. Thomas, 773-2226 on St. Croix or 693-8036 on St. John.
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