By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter
As of October, wholesale oil and gas companies will have to report monthly on the factors that influence fuel pricing, including fuel imports, storage capacity, bulk sales and wholesale prices, said B.C.’s Minister of Mines, Energy and Petroleum Resources.
“The action we are taking today will help ensure industry is held publicly accountable for unexplained markups and price increases,” said Ralston in a press release issued Aug. 14.
The Gasoline and Diesel Prices Inquiry, conducted by the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), investigated fuel pricing differences between Canadian jurisdictions and between cities in B.C. The findings revealed British Columbians were paying $490 million a year in unexplained gasoline and diesel mark ups of up to 13 cents per litre.
“For years, British Columbians have felt like they are getting gouged when they fill up at the pump,” said Ralston. “That’s why our government asked our independent energy watchdog to do an investigation into gas prices.”
The BCUC Inquiry also looked into factors affecting price fluctuations, mechanisms to moderate the fluctuations, and impacts of competition on fuel pricing.
While no evidence of collusion was found, the Inquiry did note barriers to competition in the wholesale market and that 90 per cent of the southern B.C. wholesale market was controlled by four companies.
The Fuel Price Transparency Act takes effect this month and reporting will begin in September. BCUC was designated as the independent administrator of the Act, and mandated with collecting and publishing data on fuel pricing to ensure competition in the market.
Information on fuel pricing can be found via BCUC at www.gaspricesbc.ca.
“By pulling back the curtain,” said Ralston, “the action we are taking today will help ensure industry is held publicly accountable for unexplained markups and prices increases.”
The BCUC-run website allows users to dynamically compare the underlying costs of gasoline and diesel pump prices between cities in B.C. and across Canada.
Currently, the province’s larger cities are listed. More locations may be added in the future as data is available, and based on feedback from the public, according to a BCUC spokesperson. Among the data points that can be compared are diesel versus gasoline, crude prices, retail margins, refining margins, taxes, wholesale prices and retail price with and without tax.
On Aug. 14, 2020, a litre of regular gasoline cost $1.29 in Vancouver, $1.17 in Prince George, $1.03 in Toronto and 91 cents in Edmonton. Of that, the wholesale price portion amounted to 70 cents, 64 cents, 53 cents, and 55 cents, respectively.
Whereas the retail customers in Edmonton and Vancouver pay the same crude price, the refining margins, retail margins and taxes are all higher for the Vancouver payor
None of the information being provided on the BCUC website will decrease the price of gas, said Ellis Ross, BC MLA for Skeena and Liberal Critic for LNG and Resource Opportunities, who called the gas prices website “another GasBuddy with window dressing.”
“Relying on transparency alone won’t help drivers facing pain at the pumps,” Ellis said in a release issued mid-August. “The NDP need to focus on the one factor they actually control, which is sky-high provincial taxes.”
According to the gas pricing website, customers in Prince George, Fort St. John and Kelowna will all pay about 38 cents in taxes per litre of gas. Whereas,
Vancouver residents will pay nearly 52 cents per litre, a Torontonian will pay 42 cents, a resident of Whitehorse, 28 cents, and Edmonton customers will pay just under 33 cents. The website didn’t distinguish tax details between the federal and provincial levels.
Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / The Rocky Mountain Goat / [email protected]