March 23, 2005 – Retail gas prices are all over the place at service stations on St. Thomas and St. John, just a few days after the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs told service station owners they no longer had to hold the line on profits.
Gas prices in the two-island district jumped as much as 40 cents per gallon in one day on Tuesday. In other places the spike was closer to 20 cents per gallon. Some St. Croix retailers, as of Wednesday, were selling gas at the same price they had before DLCA lifted the retail gas cap, but said that may change soon. And at least one station on St. Thomas the prices were subject to change as this article was being written.
For the first time in a long time, some service stations on St. Thomas were selling gas at higher prices than St. John, which usually has the highest prices in the territory. Gottlieb's Quickway Esso self-serve station in Estate Contant on St. Thomas went from $2.34 to $2.76 for premium gas in one day. At Bovoni Texaco in Estate Bovoni,also on St. Thomas, premium was selling Wednesday for $2.59 per gallon. At the Domino Gas Station in Smith Bay, motorists could buy premium gas for $2.31 at mid-day.
The manager, who declined to give his name, said a tanker truck was refilling his tanks and the price could change by the end of the day. "For now we're still the same, that is for now regular gas is $2.31 for premium and $2.28 for regular. We're pumping gas right now so I don't know what the price will be," he said.
Regular gas at the Bovoni Texaco sold for $2.53 per gallon, while on St. John at O'Connor's Texaco in Cruz Bay, regular could be had at $2.40 per gallon and premium was selling at $2.44.
Office worker Sivilah Williams at O'Connor Texaco said Texaco faxed notification of a price change Tuesday night. "They sent the fax here last night. They just let us know the price had changed," she said, adding that prices at that station had not changed since the receipt of the last shipment of gas.
Domino has become known to motorists as the place to get the best bargain at the pump. At E & C gas station in Estate Enighed, St. John gas prices were $2.209 for regular, $2.25 for premium and $2.379 for diesel. Manager Myrtle Barry said diesel prices has been rising at the pump since sometime in December.
"Diesel right now costs us more than premium. once the prices come in from our suppliers we do our usual mark-up. That mark-up is the formula that gives us our price," Barry said.
Diesel prices were hovering above premium prices at several other retailers as well, except on St. Croix where diesel and premium prices were roughly the same. At Bovoni Texaco diesel was selling for $2.67 per gallon. At O'Connor's Texaco diesel was at $2.54.
At Amigo's in Hannah's Rest on St. Criox premium and diesel was selling for $1.89 per gallon while regular gas was priced at $1.79 a gallon. At Diamond Crest Esso in Estate Diamond Crest they don't sell diesel but premium prices were two cents lower per gallon than they were in Hannah's Rest. Regular gas at Diamond Crest Esso on Wednesday was $1.77 per gallon.
A gas station worker at Amigo's, who gave his name only as Saji, said he could not predict the trend of gas prices. "If the price goes down, it goes down. If the price goes up, it goes up," he said.
And while prices on St. Croix appeared stable, a top official at Hovensa suggested there may be some changes there in the near future. Alexander Moorhead, Hovensa vice president, said executives there were keeping track of prices on the world oil market and would factor in those fluctuations when they review the rack rate of refined petroleum products in early April.
"Hovensa reviews its prices as far as the truckload and rack rates once a month, normally within the first five days of the month," Moorhead said. "We will be reviewing them in early April. If the conditions that have existed thus far continue through this month one can expect there will be an increase in early April, but its premature to say. We'll have to see what happens for the rest of the month," Moorhead said.
The gasoline price cap set by the DLCA was rescinded at a Friday hearing in District Court before Judge Curtis Gomez. Texaco and Esso Virgin Islands Inc. challenged the gross profit margin order, which said profits at the pump could go no higher than 30 cents per gallon at the wholesale level and 35 cents for retailers. (See http://www.onepaper.com/stthomasvi/?v=d&s=News:Local&p=1105682784"> "Consumer Department Removes Cap on Gas Profits").
DLCA Commissioner Andrew Rutnik also said the gas cap was rescinded in part because it was discovered that the profit margins had been set, based on outdated financial data supplied by some of gas companies.
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