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Fill up while you can: Lower Mainland gas prices on the rise as BCUC report release looms

Last Updated Aug 30, 2019 at 9:28 am PDT

(iStock Photo)
Summary

As we wait for the BCUC to release its report, Lower Mainlanders are finding themselves paying a little more for gas

An expert doesn't believe the BCUC's inquiry into high gas prices will yield any results

The BCUC is expected to release its report as part of the inquiry on Friday morning

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’re wondering why gas prices have gone up again around the Lower Mainland, you might soon get some answers.

A report into B.C.’s high gas prices as part of a B.C. Utilities Commission Inquiry is set to be released this morning.

Prices at the pump hovered around $1.52 a litre in Vancouver ahead of the long weekend. Looking ahead, experts have said they expect prices to go up over the next few days — to about $1.54 a litre on Saturday, and around $1.56 a litre by Sunday.

“It was nice to be around $1.30-ish, but now it’s this,” one motorist tells NEWS 1130. “It’s not good.”

The jump is in part triggered by some maintenance being done on a pipeline in Washington state.

The BCUC has been looking at factors that contribute to price fluctuations, after Premier John Horgan called for the inquiry in May, when gas prices hit $1.70 a litre.

While some are hoping the findings will lead to some sort of relief, Robert Warren — a market competition professor at the University of North Dakota — says the inquiry is just Horgan’s attempt to look like he’s “doing something” to address the issue.

“I think what’s going to happen is, at the end of the day, it’ll raise a lot of questions, but it won’t be able to point any fingers, and it’s not going to result in gas prices being rolled back,” he explains.

“You’re not going to find that the oil companies had been gouging you on pricing — that’s highly unlikely. I don’t think you’re going to find that there’s any collusion.”

Some drivers also doubt the findings of the inquiry will lead to any change for them. One reason — taxes weren’t look at.

“The fact that we’re getting taxed so much on it too — it’s just crazy,” a driver in Coquitlam says. “It’s just starting to get more and more unaffordable to be able to drive.”

Others, however, say they’re cautiously optimistic they’ll see prices drop in the future. Many tell NEWS 1130 they haven’t even heard about the inquiry.

“Really, I’m hoping, but part of me is like, no, they’re not going to share anything. They’re going to dance around it and they’re going to continue to dance around it while the rest of us are having to pay these ungodly prices,” another driver filling up their vehicle says.

On Thursday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation once again called out the province for not dealing with the high prices at the pump, this time calling the inquiry by the BCUC a waste of time and money — all because the scope was too limited.

“As far as the retailers giving up their information they told [Horgan] at the outset that they weren’t going to do that. And he’s not looking at taxes,” B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Kris Sims said. “That’s why we’re baffled as to why he called the inquiry to begin with. If they factored everything in, and really heard from everybody – including taxpayers – that would have been a different story.”

In July, the BCUC had trouble accessing profit margin data from oil and gas companies as part of its probe.

The companies had apparently refused to hand over what they call “commercially sensitive information,” after the commission’s survey asked the businesses to provide “information on your monthly average refining margin per litre of gasoline and diesel since January 2015 (by grade if possible).”

Each company was invited to voluntary participate in a questionnaire, which asked what factors have led to increasing prices at the pump over the last few years.

The BCUC’s report is expected to be released at around 11:00 a.m.

-With files from Lisa Steacy, Ash Kelly, Hana Mae Nassar, and Marcella Bernardo