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Drivers complain as gas prices climb to highest level in decade

Date Posted: 2005-06-04

Rising costs of crude oil are taking their toll on Okinawa drivers.

Gasoline prices are now running \124 per liter, with no end in site. Officials say the prices are now the highest in more than a decade. Eleven years ago prices dipped as the yen grew stronger, and competition between oil companies benefited consumers.

Those days are gone, and oil companies are adjusting their prices to reflect their increasing costs. The higher prices have a more significant impact on Okinawa drivers, who do not have the benefit of public transportation systems to get around. Privately owned automobiles are the principal means of transportation on the islandís streets, highways and expressway.

The Okinawa Consumer Protection Center says many Okinawans must spend nearly half their annual income on vehicle ownership and operating costs. The spokesman says there is hope, though, that the gasoline prices are beginning to stabilize. He adds, though, thereís no indication the prices will go down anytime soon.

Young drivers are particularly hard hit by the higher prices, mainly because they make lower salaries. They say they are trapped, because there is not a viable public transportation system, calling the monorail and bus systems inadequate for getting around Okinawa.

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