METRO VANCOUVER â€” 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, Vancouverâ€™s average gas price has rebounded in just weeks to $1.31.9 per litre.
â€œAs of today, you have the highest gas prices in North America,â€ said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, which tracks prices continent wide on its Daily Fuel Price Index.
â€œItâ€™s partly because of the high taxes. At $1.31.9 a litre, youâ€™re paying 48.5 cents a litre in taxes.â€
Critics of oil companies point to the relative stability of the price of a barrel of oil â€” it climbed from $47.67 to $50.48 U.S. between Jan. 17 and March 2 â€” and assume consumers are being gouged.
McTeagueâ€™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.
â€œThe 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,â€ said McTeague, who says linking gas prices and oil prices directly is too simplistic.
â€œGas is its own commodity, its own market.
â€œThe price of oil is just one factor in the price of gasoline â€” itâ€™s like trying to tie the price of lumber to the cost of building a home.â€
So, should consumers expect a return to sub-one-dollar litres of gas?
â€œThatâ€™s hard to predict,â€ said McTeague. â€œWe had the perfect situation in January, plenty of supply and a stronger Canadian dollar.
â€œSix weeks ago we didnâ€™t have labour strife, we didnâ€™t have a refinery fire.
â€œNow weâ€™re seeing the Anacortes (Wash.) refinery with a scheduled shutdown and refineries switching from winter blends to summer blends, which affects the cost.â€
McTeague said the gas market is tight, so costs can easily spiral if the supply chain is interrupted.
â€œWe had the same problem when there was a fire at the Cherry Point refinery in Washington,â€ said McTeague. (The 225,000-barrel-a-day facility was shut for three months in 2012.)
â€œWe had a spike in gas prices in Vancouver."
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