Gas price sticker a shocker

Black Press's Jeff Nagel on gas price stickers in the province

  • Aug. 16, 2015 1:00 p.m.

Gas prices remain stubbornly high in B.C. despite the slide in crude oil prices, and motorists are feeling gouged.

Gasoline is down only slightly from $1.40 a litre a year ago, while crude has plunged more than 50 per cent from around $98 a barrel to less than $44 in early August.

But petroleum industry analysts say it all boils down to supply and demand. Crude oil accounts for less than half of the end cost of a litre of gasoline, with government taxes and refining charges the other big factors.

“I wish there was a simple explanation,” said Jason Parent of the Kent Marketing Group. “There isn’t much of a relationship on a day-to-day basis between crude oil and retail gasoline.”

Expecting gas to move in lockstep with crude oil is somewhat akin to expecting house prices to follow lumber prices, without recognizing scarce land or an influx of buyers might have an influence.

Parent said crude and gas prices can go in different directions for different reasons, and gas prices in B.C. can diverge from what other Canadians pay.

Most of the difference between B.C. prices and the rest of the country is explained by the higher 17-cent-a-litre TransLink tax in Metro Vancouver as well as B.C.’s carbon tax.

Motorists are paying just over $1 in Alberta, a few cents more in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and $1.10 to $1.20 in most of Eastern Canada.

But even after taxes are factored out, Vancouver prices are 5 to 15 cents a litre higher than most other cities across Canada.

The reason, Parent said, is that Vancouver-area prices follow those along the U.S. west coast, where the wholesale gas supply has been constricted by refinery problems in California, driving prices up.

“Wholesale prices have been high there relative to the rest of the U.S. for a month now,” Parent said.

Some gasoline comes to B.C. through the Kinder Morgan pipeline, but the rest comes from Washington State or other U.S. refineries.

If prices were sharply higher in Vancouver than cities to the south, Parent said, gas would flow back to the U.S. – resulting in shortages here – or wouldn’t be shipped north in the first place.

Another “huge” factor behind why Canadians in general aren’t yet seeing much relief at the pumps is the drop in the loonie over the past year.

Crude and wholesale gas are priced in U.S. dollars, so Canadians are paying with a devalued currency that simply doesn’t go as far as it did a year ago.

So who is profiting from the persistently high pump prices?

“Right now, refiners are the big winners,” Parent said. They’re running close to capacity, demand is up because of lower gas prices and therefore refiners can charge more than usual.

If crude oil prices get even cheaper – potentially as sanctions against Iran end and more oil pours onto the world market – there’s no guarantee gas prices will follow because of the refining constraints in North America

 

Just Posted

Port Alice trailer goes up in flames in the early morning hours

The North Island Gazette will continue to update the story with more details as it progresses.

1041 customers without power due to outages in Northern Vancouver Island

Keep following the North Island Gazette for more on the power outages.

VIDEO: Sports Talk with Tyson: North Island Bantam Eagles are ready for provincials

Sports Talk with Tyson is back this week with an indepth look at the North Island Bantam Eagles.

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

Thunderbird movie films in downtown Port Hardy

A film crew of approximately 30-40 people has shut down part of Market Street in Port Hardy.

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Mowi reassures RDMW future of aquaculture industry in wake of historic announcement last month

Mowi anticipates a plethora of opportunities in other areas of the North Island for economic growth.

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

Most Read