Metro Vancouver has the highest gas prices in North America

Metro Vancouver has the highest gas prices in North America

METRO VANCOUVER — Vancouverites are waking up to the highest gas prices in North America.

After plunging to 98.9 cents per litre on Jan. 17, the lowest price in years, Vancouver’s average gas price has rebounded in just weeks to $1.31.9 per litre.

“As of today, you have the highest gas prices in North America,” said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, which tracks prices continent wide on its Daily Fuel Price Index.

“It’s partly because of the high taxes. At $1.31.9 a litre, you’re paying 48.5 cents a litre in taxes.”

Critics of oil companies point to the relative stability of the price of a barrel of oil — it climbed from $47.67 to $50.48 U.S. between Jan. 17 and March 2 — and assume consumers are being gouged.

McTeague’s analysis is that the oil companies have indeed increased their profit by an extra cent per litre, but most of the rest of the increase is explained by other factors.

“The U.S. dollar has gone up six cents since then, there was a fire that shut down a California refinery, and there was labour strife that shut down refineries,” said McTeague, who says linking gas prices and oil prices directly is too simplistic.

“Gas is its own commodity, its own market.

“The price of oil is just one factor in the price of gasoline — it’s like trying to tie the price of lumber to the cost of building a home.”

So, should consumers expect a return to sub-one-dollar litres of gas?

“That’s hard to predict,” said McTeague. “We had the perfect situation in January, plenty of supply and a stronger Canadian dollar.

“Six weeks ago we didn’t have labour strife, we didn’t have a refinery fire.

“Now we’re seeing the Anacortes (Wash.) refinery with a scheduled shutdown and refineries switching from winter blends to summer blends, which affects the cost.”

McTeague said the gas market is tight, so costs can easily spiral if the supply chain is interrupted.

“We had the same problem when there was a fire at the Cherry Point refinery in Washington,” said McTeague. (The 225,000-barrel-a-day facility was shut for three months in 2012.)

“We had a spike in gas prices in Vancouver."

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