Hawaii has the nation's highest gas prices, but are you getting what you pay for at the pump?
Some say Hawaii consumers are getting short changed when it comes to quality. KHON2 put gas to the test to find out.
George Nitta has been a Hawaii mechanic and repair shop owner for decades. He even has a weekly radio show, where he tells a loyal following things like this:
"The reason octane has gone down is for one primary thing, so you don't get the gas mileage, okay?" Nitta said in one of his recent broadcasts.
Nitta explained to KHON2 that he feels oil companies aren't always selling what they're posting, so consumers will have to spend more, his theory being lower octane gives fewer miles per gallon. He tests stations weekly, he even has listeners who have jumped in too.
"I did some testing this morning in time for the show," a listener calling himself Dean said on one of Nitta's recent radio shows. "Aye aye aye aye aye, supposed to be 92 only measures 85."
They're not alone in their suspicions. Hawaii Kai resident Gerry Hakkert, one of Nitta's listeners, called KHON2's Action Line on the verge of suing the state over it for not putting more resources into checking octane levels.
"I want someone to check into this and make it known to all the people of Hawaii that we're getting a screw job over and over and over again," Hakkert said.
The state Department of Agriculture's Measurement Standards Branch gets an earful of similar complaints. So KHON2 headed out with one of their few remaining gas pump inspectors. As he was checking on quantity accuracy, KHON2 also asked about octane quality.
"They match up the hose to the fuel box right here every time," Chevron Nuuanu owner Barney Robinson explained to us, about how fuel delivery works for the various octane levels. KHON2 asked him, how do you know for sure it's the right stuff?
"We match it up to inventory reconciliation, so when they tell us they bring us 5,000 gallons of gas it better show us 5,000 went into this tank of that octane," Robinson said.
The oil companies also test the octane at the manufacturing plant.
But how can the state inspectors be sure what's making it into our tanks matches the number on the pump? They haven't had a chemist on board in decades and don't have the full combustion engine test facility that would constitute a thorough octane test. Agriculture told KHON2 they do run a quick test periodically.
"We are testing but we are not finding anybody out of compliance," said Scott Enright, the department's deputy director. "We at the state level know the federal government has very strict octane levels so we start there."
So who is right? We took samples of each grade, from two stations, and had George Nitta test them. His method -- a hydrometer 00 had the gas coming in with lower-than-posted octane levels on all samples, around 87 for all samples, whereas they're posted on the pump at 87, 89, and 92.
"The lower the octane the less gas mileage you get. So if you're an oil company, would you want me to have 40 miles a gallon? No, you'd want me to have four miles a gallon because you make more money," Nitta said.
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