Canadians have come to expect gas prices to jump just before a long weekend, but the Victoria Day long weekend brought a bit of a reprieve.
Prices at most pumps around Brandon and surrounding areas were just under $1.88 a litre on Saturday, which was roughly the average for Manitoba, according to gasbuddy.com.
It’s still painfully high for many motorists, from local drivers to tourists stopping to fill up.
Darrell Saari filled his truck at the Shell station on Highland Avenue just off the Trans-Canada Highway. Originally from Winnipeg, he said he was coming from Alberta and taking his catamaran for a long weekend vacation at the family camp on Lac Du Bonnet.
Despite what he had to pay to fill up, he said he felt even worse for the truckers.
"It’s all trickle-down," he said. "It’s going to raise the price of everything because they have to make up for their fuel costs."
He added he wasn’t happy with the federal carbon taxes, either, which he said he is sure is adding to the price woes. The Conservative government in Alberta repealed the provincial carbon tax in 2019. Travelling east through the Prairies, he has seen the price go from $1.68 a litre in Alberta to $1.87 in Manitoba.
Brandon resident Clarence Toderash was filling his 2021 Chevy Silverado at the Co-Op on 18th Street North. He said he is glad he bought the truck because despite its size, it gets around 23 miles (38 kilometres) to the gallon. His gas bill came to $125 after filling from a quarter tank. His other truck, an older model Silverado, costs $160 to fill and only gets 13 miles (20 kilometres) to the gallon.
Even with fuel savings, Toderash says the price of gas makes no sense to him and also blamed politics for the price spikes.
"There’s a huge iron frying pan they sell at Princess Auto I’d love to smack a certain someone out east upside the head with," he joked. "Everybody is getting screwed."
He added he also felt bad for the truckers because they have no choice about driving.
Manitoba so far has the third-lowest gas prices in the country, followed by Saskatchewan ($1.869) and Alberta ($1.695). Other provincial and territorial average gas prices rated highest to lowest are Newfoundland and Labrador ($2.19), British Columbia ($2.16), Prince Edward Island ($2.05), Nova Scotia ($2.046), New Brunswick ($2.019), Ontario ($2.015) and the Northwest Territories ($1.911). These are calculated averages based on regional median prices.
The average price for a barrel of crude, according to tradingeconomics.com, was US$110 as of Friday afternoon. The price of crude oil has come down from its high of $139 set on March 6, but demand has been steadily increasing in Canada and other nations, said Partick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com.
De Haan said the price is high because of an age-old problem: supply and demand.
"How oil is priced is complex, but there is less crude available on the market because Russia is being cut off from the market and they are one of the largest producers of crude oil in the world," he said in an interview. "Less supply and more demand means the price is going to lead to price volatility."
On top of that, it’s summer vacation season and pandemic restrictions have been lifted, meaning more people are eager to get on the road again. This is putting more pressure on gas prices as demand has increased over the past three months.
De Haan has heard many comments from people wondering why other oil producing nations aren’t increasing production and the simple answer is they can’t. Whatever wells and refineries they have are already running at or near capacity and there is simply no more room for more crude or gasoline.
Adding new wells to the system takes time as well. De Haan said it takes an average of five years to get an oil well from discovery to production, if it gets approved. Corporations also need to be sure that well will make a profit based on price averages and the quality of the crude.
Even initiatives to put more electric vehicles on the road won’t help for the foreseeable future. Manufacturing those vehicles means having to mine minerals like nickel, lithium and cobalt needed to produce the batteries and bodies for those vehicles. That also takes years and the majority of mining around the world relies on petroleum to power operations.
Consumers can help themselves save a few dollars when filling up, De Haan said. They can use gas apps like GasBuddy’s and others to seek out the cheapest prices in their areas.
They can also change a few driving habits like slowing down so their vehicles burn less gas over longer periods of time.
"The fuel efficiency sweet spot for most vehicles today is around 90 to 100 kilometres and hour," he said. "If people can keep their cars at that speed, they will see less fuel consumption on average."
If everyone could change their driving habits, there would be less demand and prices would start to decrease, he said.
Until then, he said he can’t see prices going anywhere but up for at least the rest of the year and possibly into next year.
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