BC resident raises alarm over discrepencies in fuel pricing

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A Northern B.C. resident hopes to draw attention to what he calls “blatant price gouging” occurring in Northern and Central B.C.

Kevin Barredo has been watching wholesale fuel prices in the region since the initial spike caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, getting his information from the British Columbia Utilities Commission website.

Barredo claims data earlier this month showed that gas stations in Fort St. John and Prince George kept their fuel prices at $2.14 and $2.16 per litre, respectively, when wholesale prices were at $1.64 per litre.

“In the past, Vancouver has always been 20 cents higher than the north because of the 17-cent trans link tax. Despite the almost 20 cent drop per litre for regular gasoline in Vancouver, due to oil prices falling $17-20 a barrel, Northern BC stays at peak levels,” Barredo stated.

He adds that he’s unsure who or what is behind these levels but says the issue needs to be addressed.

After reviewing data supplied by Barredo, communications manager for the BCUC, Krissy Van Loon offered insight as to why there was such a significant difference between fuel costs in Northern B.C. and Vancouver.

“Based on our initial observations, retail fuel prices in the north are generally more stable than retail prices in Vancouver, as Vancouver operates on a daily market, resulting in daily retail price fluctuations,” Van Loon stated.

She says the commission expects other areas of the province to gradually change retail prices and follow the general trends, such as changes in crude oil and wholesale prices demonstrated in the Vancouver market.

“The current discrepancy may be the result of a slower response to market changes, and we expect this will level out over time.”

Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, also reviewed Barredo’s data, saying that gas stations across B.C. as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are not dropping their prices in the same way that wholesale markets are.

“I think there has to be transparency in numbers, and that’s not what we’re seeing right now. Yes, you see the BCUC numbers, but they don’t explain the whole story,” McTeague said.

He says the BCUC numbers show the wholesale price; after adding taxes and comparing the retail sale price, the difference is what is known as the retail margin.

“The retail margin bears more explaining. We’re seeing it not just in faraway places where you have to transport for great distances, but even in towns where there are major refineries such as Prince George, retail margins are still 25 to 27 cents a litre,” McTeague stated.

“I think we need a little bit more clarity and maybe a few more days, but I expect those prices to come down five to 10 cents a litre to reflect what has been happening on the markets.”

Van Loon says that while the BCUC doesn’t gather real-time data from the industry, the commission hopes to better understand any anomalies that are currently happening in the future once they’ve had the opportunity to gather and analyze data from the fuel industry.

The commission is also monitoring retail and wholesale price margins to ensure fuel companies in B.C. are not taking advantage of current market conditions and unfairly increasing the price of fuel for consumers.

“The BCUC will be selecting a sample of retail stations from all regions across the province that will be required to submit monthly statements for their fuel sales and margins for February and March 2021 and February and March 2022,” the commission said in a press release earlier this year.

Once the commission receives all the data, it will review it and share its findings in a public report. They add that if anomalies are found, the commission will request further information from the industry to provide clarity.

For more frequent updates on fuel prices, click here.

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