Metro Vancouver drivers see another painful record as gas prices jump

The cost of fuel around Metro Vancouver is rising again, set to break a string of record-high prices over the last few weeks.

Prices at some Vancouver-area stations were listed at $1.69.9 per litre early Friday, a jump of more than two cent overnight and an increase of about six cents since last Thursday.

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In the Tri-Cities, gas prices topped out at $1.68.9 at the time of publication. 

Gas prices across the Tri-Cities are set to push recent record prices even higher this summer.

Before the spike in gas prices this spring, the previous record was last set on Oct. 13, 2018 when an Enbridge natural gas pipeline exploded near Prince George. For one day, that Saturday, prices soared to $1.639 per litre in Metro Vancouver.

This time around, gas prices are getting squeezed from all directions. To start with, the drastic shift in temperature over the last month has led gas stations to switch over from a cheaper, winter blend to a lighter, more expensive summer formulation.

From the south, about a third of the Lower Mainland’s gas comes from two refineries in Washington State, but both are below normal output because of spring maintenance. “That's pushed up wholesale prices everywhere,” Canada’s ‘Gas Guru’ Dan McTeague told The Tri-City News.

Then there’s the on-going dispute over the Trans Mountain pipeline, one that could take a turn for the worse depending on whether the winner of the April 16 Alberta election invokes Bill 12, which calls for a reduced flow of gasoline to B.C.  

To fill the gasoline supply gap, buyers are turning further abroad, in particular to the Pacific Rim nations of Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea. But redirecting gasoline from other markets comes at a premium and that translates to higher prices at the pump.

Last week, the B.C. government’s carbon tax increase went into effect, bumping the cost per tonne of carbon from $35 to $40, nudging up the cost of gasoline about 1.16 cents per litre at the pump.

As we move into the summer, prices across the Lower Mainland are only expected to grow. On July 1, the Translink’s motor fuel tax will kick in, bumping the levy from 17 cents per litre to 18.5 cents per litre.

“All of these things bode in favour of much higher prices and record prices on average for Metro Vancouver drivers,” said Mcteague.

“If people are going to wait 30 minutes at Costco to save a few cents they're certainly going to drive down to Blaine to save $25 a tank on a day like today. You're now talking 1,300, 1,400 bucks a year.”Analysts blame the trend on issues ranging from gas shortages to reduced capacity at refineries in the western United States as those facilities do annual maintenance or switch to summer-blend fuels.

After prices reached $1.64 per litre on April 4, Premier John Horgan pledged his government would monitor the situation, but he also said carbon and other taxes were not the only reasons for expensive fuel.

“We’ll see how it goes through the summer and if there’s an opportunity to have the province step in and help, we’ll do that. But at this point, I’m hopeful there will be some correlation between the commodity price and retail price. Those are issues that are market driven and out of my control,” he said.

— with files from the Canadian Press

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