High gasoline prices fuel drivers’ malcontent

Some South Cariboo drivers are fuming over the high fuel prices at local dealers

Gasoline prices in 100 Mile House, which have often been higher than other towns in the region, have fuelled some heated conversations.

This was particularly true last November and December when people were paying more for gasoline (128.9/litre for regular) than most other communities in the province.

Residents wanted to know why a litre of gasoline is more expensive here than other communities in the region and up and down Highway 97, and were travelling to larger communities, such as Kamloops where gas prices were hovering slightly above and below 1.00/litre for regular.

None of the local gas stations or their head offices representatives would comment publicly on the reasons for 100 Mile House to be typically higher than anywhere else in the Cariboo-Thompson-Nicola regions, with the exception of 7-Eleven management.

The sole, local speaker braving the pricing queries, 7-Eleven manager Shannon Wagner says her Petro-Can prices are set by 7-Eleven head office.

The gasoline prices stay the same as others in town because Wagner says they do a price comparison to other local gas station several times each day.

“It’s a mandatory [task] three times a day. We do them at the beginning and end of every shift and that data is sent to head office and they make a decision where we’re at.”

The 7-Eleven head office surveys the surrounding area to see where the price point is – the location where demand for the product keeps prices relatively high – and responds accordingly, she explains.

“If the price comparison comes down, and there’s any movement, then the powers-that-be make the decision whether or not we go up, or whether we stay, or whether we go down.”

7-Eleven Inc. (Canada) communications manager Laurie Smith also gave a statement regarding the corporate policy.

“7-Eleven’s gasoline pricing is determined by the competitive marketplace each store operates in.

“We monitor our competitors regularly and respond accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says gas prices are driven by market forces, but are also affected by other influences.

“When demand is up, the price goes up.”

The remaining factors include the price of crude oil, the cost of refining and transportation and federal and provincial taxes, she explains.

There are 18 refineries in Canada, Barnett says, including two that operate in British Columbia and produce about 20 per cent of the province’s gasoline needs.

The remaining 80 per cent of B.C.’s gasoline is imported from Alberta and Washington State, she notes.

“The federal government, through the Competition Bureau, is responsible for ensuring consumers have access to competitive prices and investigating anti-competitive activities.”

The Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI), an association of major Canadian oil companies, states on its website that four factors affect the price at the pump – crude oil, wholesale prices, retail mark-up and taxes.

While the wholesale price of gasoline is determined through various means, including trading activity, the retail mark-up and taxes add that final kick at the pump.

CPPI states the majority of retailers are independent business men and women who make their own pump price decisions, even though they may do business under a major marketer’s brand. It notes consumers’ purchasing decisions are the final factor in determining those.

Retail prices in Canada also include an average of 35 cents per litre in federal, provincial and municipal fuel taxes.

Barnett says that common sense indicates the only way to impact the local gas prices is to cut the demand while the supply is strong.

“It’s like real estate: if we’ve got lots of houses, the price goes down … it’s supply and demand.”

While prices fluctuate, savvy consumers might watch the daily pricing and crunch the numbers for commuting, while balancing that with their own determination on whether to buckle under the pricing pressure.

According to BCGasprices.com, gasoline rates (cents/litre) on Jan. 10 in Kamloops ranged from 106.9 to 119.9; Cache Creek, 119.9; Clinton, 120.9; Quesnel, 122.9-123.9; William Lake, 125.9-128.9; and 108 Mile, 123.9.

The same day, 100 Mile House prices were at 124.9 – uncommonly lower than Williams Lake, but still 18 cents higher than Kamloops’ cheapest deals.

A week earlier, rates on Jan. 3 at these locations were highest in 100 Mile House at 128.9 and lowest in Kamloops at 113.9-115.9 (10-15 cents cheaper).