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

OPINION: Urgent care room will cost lives

“Seniors, of any demographic, are the most vulnerable to the loss of emergency care.”

James Hayward coroner’s inquest rescheduled hours away from where RCMP shooting occured

The family is “a bit disappointed that it’s going to be held in Campbell River”

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Gil’s Girls win Harvey Walkus Memorial Ball Hockey Tournament in shootout

This year the tournament was held at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena on April 12-14.

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Most Read