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B.C. residents being ‘ripped off’ at pumps

The BC Utilities Commission findings into gas and diesel prices are in.

The BCUC’s inquiry found that there is an unexplained difference in wholesale price of about 13 cents per litre between Metro Vancouver and the US Pacific Northwest. 

“We cannot find a specific trigger in 2015 that would explain the beginning of this disconnect,” the commission said.

It also found that retail margins for gas sold in B.C. are higher than other parts of Canada and that in Western Canada, and that the gap has widened over the past four years.

There are two refineries in B.C. (Parkland and Husky) and they supply approximately 30 percent of the B.C. gasoline and diesel market. 

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The rest of the supply is largely from Alberta-based refiners and refiners in Washington state. 

The inquiry also found:

  • prices remain persistently higher in Vancouver suggests that it is not functioning as a fully competitive market. 
  • There are elements of a natural monopoly in the wholesale market. 
  • If a marketer wanted to import gasoline into the BC market they would need a Primary Terminal facility. 
  • There are significant barriers to entry. 
  • And that five refiner-marketers (Parkland, Suncor, Imperial Oil, Shell and Husky) have the ability to influence retail price.

The provincial Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology was quick to react to the investigation into gas prices.

Bruce Ralston said that if people feel like they’re being ripped off when they fill up at the gas station, they’re right.

“Today, the BC Utilities Commission found that the wholesale gasoline market is not truly competitive, which results in unexplained higher gas prices for consumers, and potentially higher profits for oil and gas companies,” Ralston said. 

“This means that British Columbians pay $490 million a year more than they otherwise would.

Ralston said the provincial government is concerned with the allocation of refined gasoline flowing into B.C., as well as the lack of transparency around how the price of gas is set.

“We are committed to bringing fairness and transparency to B.C,” he added.

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