Rota still has the dubious distinction of having the highest prices of gasoline on U.S. soil with regular unleaded gasoline costing $6.15 a gallon and diesel at $6.90 a gallon as of yesterday, followed by its sister islands of Tinian and then Saipan, mostly because of their isolation and corresponding transportation costs as well as supply and demand, among other factors.
Average gas price in the U.S. mainland was $3.686 as of Sunday.
On Saipan, pump prices also hit a record high last week with regular unleaded gasoline reaching $5.209 a gallon, super/premium unleaded gasoline at $5.529 a gallon, and diesel at $5.519 a gallon.
If Saipan motorists think they've got it so bad, Rota and Tinian have them worst.
At Mobil Sasanhaya filling station on Rota, regular unleaded gasoline is $6.15 a gallon, while diesel is $6.90 a gallon following last week's 10-cent a gallon increase.
Its competitor, Luta Gas, also sells regular unleaded gasoline at $6.15 a gallon.
“On Rota, gas prices have long been higher than the CNMI minimum wage. Instead of spending on food, your money goes more on buying gas for you to go to work. It's Lent, so we could consider it fasting when we don't have enough money to buy food anyway,” a Rota resident told Saipan Tribune yesterday. She added that prices of all consumer goods on the island are much higher than those on Saipan and Tinian.
The CNMI's minimum wage is currently $5.55 an hour.
The Rota mother said that when regular shipment of goods doesn't reach Rota on time because of transportation issues, she is forced to buy a 20-lb. sack of rice for $28.95 and stretch her hard-earned dollars to pay for other necessities such as utility services and gas.
Another employee on Rota said with the soaring prices of gasoline, it's a relief that he walks to and from work, which is only two minutes away from where he lives.
Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) separately said yesterday that Rota residents are “suffering too much” from high gas prices that are much higher than most government and private sector wages.
“In the 17th Legislature, we were communicating with Mobil, and asked them whether Mobil can ship directly from Guam to Rota if that is not yet the case,” she said. Rota is nearer Guam, a much larger market, compared to the distance between Guam and Saipan.
On Tinian, the pump price of regular unleaded gasoline is $6.099 a gallon at Tinian Fuel Services Inc. filling station. Their diesel is $6.399 a gallon.
Another Tinian filling station, SN Five, sells regular unleaded gasoline at $6.199 a gallon and diesel at $6.399 a gallon.
Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Rota) said yesterday that island residents have learned to cope with the high gas prices including “reducing their errands, less pashando and buying groceries before heading or after work.”
National media outlets are reporting that hedge funds, commodity pools and other high-roller investors have thrown close to $12.5 billion into a collective bet that gasoline prices will rise, and some analysts say it’s one reason why gasoline prices are at a record for this date in the United States.
Since the start of the year, Mobil Oil Mariana Islands and Shell Marianas have raised pump prices in the CNMI twice by 10 cents each or a total of 20 cents a gallon.