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Gas prices soar – fire, global tension blamed

Gasoline prices shot above $1.34 per litre on Tuesday, with pundits and critics citing a number of factors. - Neil Corbett Photo
Gasoline prices shot above $1.34 per litre on Tuesday, with pundits and critics citing a number of factors.
— image credit: Neil Corbett Photo

Groan-inducing gas prices swept across Abbotsford early this week, shooting up to $1.349 per litre at many stations on Tuesday.

“I was shocked. I’m spending so much money on gas it’s unreal,” said Travers Whelan of Abbotsford, as he fueled up his SUV. He said it costs him $25 every weekday to travel to a course he attends in New Westmin ster.

“Something’s wrong, someone’s gouging – it should be regulated,” he said.Those sentiments were echoed by Roger Larson as he fueled up his vehicle.

“I think it’s ridiculous, but what are you going to do? We’ve got to have it. It’s just price gouging – there’s no reason for it. A little guy has no way to fight back.”

Motorist Tom Bradley predicts prices will keep climbing, and was filling his tank.

“I decided I better get some gas before it goes up even further,” said the senior, noting gas prices are on their way up across the border, and he expects Canadian gas prices to climb correspondingly higher.

Some sources blame the high prices on a Feb. 17 refinery fire at a BP facility in Blaine, Washington.

Another factor is crude oil price increases, brought by political tension in the Middle East.

Jason Parent is an industry expert with the Kent Group, which collects and reports national retail fuel pricing for government.

He explained that the refinery fire is a legitimate reason for fuel prices to increase over a wide area. He noted that if wholesale prices are going to get a “bump” in the area served by a refinery, a larger region will be affected by the price increase. This prevents wholesale petroleum buyers from “buying up” gas from a nearby, cheaper supplier.

“So you’ll still have cheap gas, but you’ll have none left,” he explained.

He said the price of crude is unpredictable, and “can change on a dime” in the present geo-political climate.

Jason Toews of Gasbuddy.com said the refinery fire had terrible timing.

“It comes at a bad time, because this time of year gas prices start to go up anyway,” said Toews, the co-founder of the website which charts gas prices for Canadian consumers.

He said the average pump price in Abbotsford on Tuesday was $1.334.

That number looked like a bargain from a Vancouver perspective, with city commuters fueling up for an average price of $1.42.

There are many comments from irate consumers on the website, but Toews doesn’t have good news for them.

Refineries will soon close for maintenance, and the fair summer weather will bring more demand for gas. Those factors always push prices higher every year.

Given the present situation, where prices in Abbotsford are already surpassing peaks not seen since 1.298 last May, Toews predicts prices in the $1.50 to $1.52 range in Abbotsford this summer. The last time it reached such heights was July 2008, when the average price gasbuddy.com saw in Abbotsford was 1.469.

“People will start getting upset about this again,” said Toews. “But high prices don’t impact demand.”

People simply must have gasoline.

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