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Gas in Vancouver is now over $6 a gallon—and why you should care

By On

​Gas in Vancouver is predicted to go from $1.55 a liter to $1.60 in the coming weeks.

Gasoline in Canada is priced in litres. A litre is slightly more than a U.S. quart. The volume of a Canadian litre is 34 ounces, vs. 32 for the U.S. quart.

Four litres is a shade more than one U.S. gallon. 4 litres=1 U.S Gallon. $1.55 x 4=$6.20 Canadian.

Today, the Vancouver price is $1.55 per litre Canadian. At today’s exchange rate of 0.78, $6.20 Canadian is worth $4.84 in U.S. funds.

If the price per litre goes from $1.55 to $1.60 as predicted, the cost for a gallon of Canadian gas will be $5.00 in U.S. funds.

Gas in Whatcom County is now about $3.00 per gallon. Above the national average of $2.81 per gallon, but about the same price as gasoline in Seattle or Portland.

Point Roberts prices are significantly higher at $4.00 per gallon. (Gasoline in Point Roberts is priced in litres—yesterday it was between 97 and 99 cents per litre in U.S. funds)

Earlier this week, Market Fuel in Bellingham advertised gas at $2.74 per gallon. Other name brands, Chevron, Esso, Union 76 and Shell, posted prices for 87 octane regular at between $3.29 and $3.39 a gallon at their various locations in Bellingham and Whatcom County.

The ARCO station in Ferndale, just off I-5 and Slater Road, generally has the lowest prices for brand name gas.

I pulled in on Tuesday to fill up. The price on the sign was $2.99 a gallon. In the five minutes it took to pull off the freeway and pull up to the pump, the price on the sign had changed from $2.99 to $3.05.

No matter. Gas price fluctuations during the day are normal. That has been the situation in Canada for years. Gas is generally cheaper at night and more expensive during daylight hours. The fact that now the changes can happen every few minutes—rather than a few times a day—is just a sign of the times.

The cashier advised that the prices on the LED signs are controlled remotely by oil companies in the States. He smiled and told me, “I just take your money and turn on the pump.”

I admired his candor. Besides, I just came in to buy some gas, not to negotiate a price. So I just sighed, gave a primal shrug, paid up and drove away.

After all, it could be a lot worse. At least the cashier was polite and I could buy as much gas as I wanted.

I remember the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973. Back then, I had to line up for hours to purchase a limited amount of gas. Then there were the Odd-Even Days in Oregon, when I was restricted to buying gas every other day based on the number on my license plate.

Besides, oil is a wasting asset, millions of years in the making, extracted, refined and transported to a modern, safe dispensary for me to buy. That seems reasonable, given the alternatives. Like walking back to Point Roberts from Ferndale. Or hitchhiking.

Still, that $1.55 per litre/$6.20 a gallon price at Vancouver pumps is going to be increasingly hard for Vancouver drivers to swallow. The median household income in Vancouver is $76,000, vs. the Canadian average of $80,000. Another challenge when you live in the most expensive city in Canada.

Despite the outward indicia of prosperity, a lot of ordinary Vancouver citizens are just getting by. Many are struggling with mountains of consumer debt. Any significant jump in interest rates and gas prices would put more financial and emotional pressures on a lot of individuals and families.

The last time gas in Vancouver hit $1.50 per litre was in 2014. Since then, the price has been going down slowly and steadily. As long as pump prices hovered in the $1.25 per litre range, there was no public outcry.

However, at the current price of $6.20 per gallon, the cost to fill your 20 gallon tank in Vancouver will be $124 CDN.

In Whatcom County, that same fillup at $3.00 a gallon will cost you $60.00 U.S.

The price disparity between Canadian and American gasoline is the main reason the Point Roberts border is regularly clogged by motorists from the Lower Mainland “dipping down to the Point” for that “cheap American gas.”

The congestion will continue to worsen in the summer months. And it will continue to be a source of frustration for Americans living on the Point that have to put up with long border lineups to get to and from work, school, doctor’s appointments and the many other activities of life that are impossible to accomplish within the confines of Point Roberts. But they will have access to cheaper gas. Point Roberts has five gas bars—with over 100 pumps—for a resident population of 1300.

Just across the border in Tsawwassen, B.C, there are five stations to serve a resident population of 23,000.

What is driving prices higher? I remember paying $1.50 a litre in Canada in 2008 for a brief period. But world oil prices had recently hit $150 U.S. per barrel. This was the explanation given by oil companies and governments at the time. Many businesses passed the increased cost along to consumers as a “fuel surcharge.” Predictably, those same businesses and governments did not offer rebates to those surcharges when gas prices started going down.

Today, the world price of oil is $67 a barrel. Why are consumers paying the same price for a product that has dropped in value by over half in the past decade?

Price gouging from a greedy petroleum industry is the easiest explanation, but is that the default answer? Let alone the correct one?

How about the steady increases in Canadian taxes on petroleum? In 2015, gas taxes in Canada represented 35% of the pump price, depending on the province. In Vancouver, that figure rose to 41%, due in part to the 17 cent per gallon Transit Tax levied on gas sales in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

Additional taxes will follow. On Sunday, April 1, the first of (four) annual increases in British Columbia’s Carbon Tax added 1 cent per litre to the price of BC gasoline.

According to the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, when filling up a typical Toyota Camry sedan, $5.99 will go to carbon taxes. In addition, you have 10 cents per litre for Federal Excise Tax, 15 cents for Provincial Excise Tax, plus 2 cents for the Goods and Services Tax on the aforementioned Federal and Provincial Excise Taxes. This is also referred to as “the Tax on the Tax.”

The remainder of your dollar goes to the price of crude (22 cents) and the refining and marketing of gasoline (45 cents).

No one is advocating the complete removal of all taxes on Canadian gasoline. But if this were to happen, the price of a litre of Canadian gas would be about 75 cents, not $1.55.

Not all Canadian provinces support a Federal Carbon Tax. Some provinces have carbon taxes, or a variation thereof, already in place. Some do not. Saskatchewan has refused to tax carbon on a provincial level. The Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) have been slow to embrace the idea of a federal carbon tax.

Little wonder. The Maritimes have traditionally been the “have not” provinces. Their citizens have less disposable income than the traditional “have” provinces of Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia. Ontario has already imposed a provincial carbon tax on it’s citizens, but the new leader of the Conservative Party has recently come out against the carbon tax. The political tides are turning.

Many voters in Washington state say they support a carbon tax. And they will, until it starts to impact them every time they fill up their car. It may be politically correct to say you support saving the environment, but do you trust the government to have all the correct answers to deal with controlling greenhouse gas emissions? Particularly the federal government?

Support for a carbon tax may have broad support among the citizens of Washington and British Columbia, but it is not deep.

When the carbon tax chickens come home to roost in the form of higher prices at the gas pump, politicians on both sides of the border will be the first to change their flight plan. Or fly the coop.

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About John Lesow

Writer • Member since Mar 21, 2008

Comments by Readers

Jon Humphrey

Apr 13, 2018

Awesome article John. I tend to look at high gas prices as a good thing since they will help drive the adoption of new technology that gets us away from gas. Here is a dated, but good, article on it. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-moody/why-high-gas-prices-are-a_b_6855142.html Getting rid of our gas addiction will also help make the country safer from a security standpoint. 

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John Lesow

Apr 14, 2018

Thank you , Jon.

 I don’t agree that price is a good disincentive, but it’s differences in opinion that make for good horse races !

I do agree with the last paragraph of your link. I hope NW Citizen readers read the entire article and decide for themselves.

The Honda Fit example noted in your HuffPo link reminded me of of a friend, who  recently purchased a used Fit for his daily commute in Chicago.  Good choice. Low initial cost (about $5000) 35 mpg and  good access to service and spare parts.

Plus, it had a manual transmission.

As he told me, ” a stick is the best insurance against car theft in Chicago. Nobody knows how to drive a manual transmission these days.  Besides, a  manual is easier to fix and this theft insurance does not cost me anything”.

My friend also purchased a new Honda Odessey minivan to accommodate his wife and their children, ages 5, 7 and 8. The Odessey is perfect for the needs of a growing family.

Cost of a new Odessey is about $33,000.   Given the ample space and safety features, it is an ideal “fit” for him.

However, the Odessey has a 3.5 liter engine (about 200  cubic inches) and gets about 22 miles per gallon.  Not particularly impressive, but you need that larger engine and horsepower when you’re a soccer mom merging on to the freeway with a bunch of kids in the van and all the traffic is going 75 miles an hour. Including that 18 wheeler that is bearng down on you.

There are a lot of pickup trucks in Whatcom County. Not unusual for a rural county where agriculture is the largest industry, representing $300 million dollars a year.

 Pickups, even the one referenced in the Huffington Post, do not get particularly good gas mileage. Especially old ones, like mine. The idea that we can mandate 52 mpg for new pickups by 2025 through government fiat is unrealistic.

 One reason for the growing backlash against more government regs, particularly the impractical ones.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jon Humphrey

Apr 20, 2018

Thanks John, as a bit of a car guy myself, my biggest claim to fame is rebuilding an F22B2 engine from a 1997 Honda Accord, I often think about what people really need in transportation. I have put back together 2 homes and did some work for Habitat, etc. Yet I have never owned a truck. I managed by borrowing one from time to time or getting deliveries of materials. There are times when it would have been nice, and I have no problem with people owning trucks that use them for work. I don’t think most people do. My first job was on a farm and I got to drive a truck around it legally when I was 14, a Z71. Anyway, all I need a truck for is transporting sheetrock and lumber from time to time. The occasional motorcross bike, maybe. So I would prefer a full-sized bed, but don’t need any real power. However, when I looked around a truck like this didn’t exist. At least not pre-fab. I guess I could find somefull-size truck with a blown motor and put something small in it, but then the frame will still weigh a ton. So here is what I propose for most truck owners. A 100 HP engine, fullsize bed, towing capacity of 1,200 lbs, and a bed cover to make it more aerodynamic most of the time. So, with that in mind, I think a collective fuel standard around 50 mpg is obtainable, but I agree that some people will still need big trucks on a daily basis. 

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John Lesow

Apr 21, 2018

Jon,

Your statement that most people don’t really need a truck for work rings true.  And should be obvious to anyone. 

By extension, do most people that drive Land Rovers,  Humvees and fancy Jeeps need them for work?  No.

Do these owners ever actually take their expensive, off-road vehicles off the road?    No. 

 So why are they purchased in the first place?     Because the vehicle one drives is a personal statement to a greater or lesser degree.   It has always been this way. 

 If you drive an expensive Land Rover, a Tesla or a $75,000 Dodge Ram,  the message to the world is I’m rich”. 

If you drive a jalopy, the message is, “I’m a bum”.   

 No matter that half the vehicles on the road are leased or financed for up to 7 years.  People don’t actually “own” these cars and never will.    But no one  knows your real financial status when you are tooling around in that new Mercedes,  Volvo or Tesla.

You and I both admittedly drive old vehicles.

Do we care what others think of us,  based on the vehicles we choose to drive?     I doubt it. 

 

 

 

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John Lesow

Apr 24, 2018

UPDATE:   Tuesday, April 24, 2018

CTV reports that gas prices in Vancouver reached $1.57.9 per litre yesterday (Monday, April 23) breaking a Vanouver record.

“Dan McTeague of Gasbuddy.com reports that  gas should hit $1.58.9  by Wedndesday, breaking the region’s all time record high for fuel prices, then climb higher next month”.

Gas prices are predicted to go to $1.62.9 per litre by the end of May.   

 

 

 

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Michael Riordan

Apr 25, 2018

John, you should be multiplying by 3.785, not 4.0 to gets the cost per US gallon,  which changes the results significantly. As Bill Clinton famously said, “It’s just arithmetic!”

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John Lesow

Apr 25, 2018

Michael,

The results do not change significantly.  

As noted in the article, the fluid equivalent of 4 litres is a shade more than one U.S. gallon.  4 litres equals 1.05  U.S. gallons.

4 litres is equivalent to 136 fluid ounces. 1 gallon is equivalent to 128 fluid ounces.

So when you buy 4 litres of gas in Canada, you get  one U.S. gallon, plus 8 additional ounces.  About the volume of a coffee cup.

Gas in Vancouver is currently selling for $1.58 CDN per litre.  The price varies  during the day.  But the price trend is up, not down.

If gas prices go to $1.62 CDN per litre by the end of May as predicted, gasoline in Vancouver will be $6.48 per gallon.  

At today’s exchange rate of .78, it will cost you $5.05 U.S. for a gallon of gas by the end of next month.  But you will be getting 136 fluid ounces instead of 128.

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Michael Riordan

Apr 26, 2018

I said “significantly,” John, not “substantially.”

If you use 3.785 litres/gallon instead of 4.0, CA$1.55 per litre converts to CA$5.87/gallon, not CA6.20, and at a conversion rate of 0.78, that’s US$4.58/gallon, well shy of $5.00.

Even if the cost per litre is CA$1.60, that still comes out to US$4.72 per gallon, less than $5.00.

It may be only a cup, but it still runneth over!

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John Lesow

Apr 27, 2018

Michael,

To borrow from your previous Clinton quote, it depends on what your definition of “significantly” is…

Do we argue about the difference between “significantly”—-which you put forward in your earlier post—-and “substantially”, which you have now thrown into the mix? 

Who reading this post really cares?

Do we argue that when you pay $5.05 U.S. for 136 fluid ounces of gasoline, as noted in my last comment, that your are getting a “shade” more than 128 ounces?

Not to dwell on your Clinton references, but “What difference does it make”?

Well, to the average motorist, who is captive to steadily rising pump prices, the “difference” is that there is less money to spend on the necessities of life when the price of gasoline goes to $5.00 per gallon in Whatcom County or $6.00 per gallon in Canada.   Motorists are reminded of this painful economic fact every time they fill their tank.  As a result, family budgets can change. Travel choices change.   Attitudes change.  And governments can change.

Particularly fragile coalition governments like the one we presently have in British Columbia.

If you have been following my posts on Justin Trudeau, you know that his support  is steadily declining.   Polls show that if an election were held today, he would lose.   

When citizens are fully informed about the taxes they pay to their provincial and federal governments when they purchase a litre of gasoline, it’s reasonable for them to question whether they are getting value for their tax dollars.    That’s why citizens are starting to question the real value of carbon taxes and transit taxes set out in my article.   Incumbents and aspiring politicians on both sides of the border should take note.  

The Kinder Morgan pipeline is supported by our Liberal Prime Minister, but the governing coaliton of New Democrats and Greens in British Columbia are opposed.  The New Democrat Premier in Alberta supports the pipeline.   If push comes to shove, you could be looking at a real trade war.   The boycott of B.C. wine by Alberta earlier this year was one thing, but the potential blocking of Alberta bitumen is quite another.    Not everyone drinks wine, but we all depend on petroleum to fuel our cars,  provide diesel fuel for our commercial trucks and jet fuel for our airlines. 

Interesting that members of the same provincial political party could be at such opposite extremes. The Premier of Alberta is  threatening to shut off oil to British Columbia if the NDP/Green coalition is successful in shutting down the Kinder Morgan  pipeline.

Do you favor  twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to transport Alberta bitumen to Burnaby?

Because cancelling the K-M proposal would have considerable environmental and economic implications for Whatcom County, none of them good. 

       

 

 

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John Lesow

Apr 30, 2018

 

Update on Vancouver gas prices as of April 30:

http://ctv.news/iBoSc9i

The CTV video offers comments from Canadian drivers about how they are coping with the increases, as well as the effect of price increases on border crossings into Washington State.    

Gas prices in Point Roberts today cracked the $1.00 USD per litre mark,  with some stations posting prices of $1.01. 

 

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