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High Kootenay gas prices mainly due to competition: analyst

While fuel transport is a factor, analyst says competition is a big factor in high Kootenay prices
Pictured is the Safeway gas bar in Cranbrook, where gas is $2.13 per litre. Most stations in the region are hovering around this price as of Tuesday, July 12. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman)

Many drivers across the Kootenays might be wondering why gas is more expensive here than in the Lower Mainland.

It’s mostly because of competition, says senior petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan with GasBuddy.

“The de-facto trend is stations are trying to lower prices as slowly as possible right now,” said De Haan. “It’s the first time they’ve made a healthy margin on gasoline, so they’re clinging to that profit.”

He says in more competitive markets, like Vancouver for example, where gas is hovering around $1.96 per litre, operators are able to lower their prices to be more competitive.

“In an area like the Kootenays you may have fewer owners operating stations — there’s a wide latitude to lower prices,” De Haan said.

According to the GasBuddy website, most gas stations in Cranbrook, Fernie and Kimberley are listed around $2.13 per litre as of Tuesday, July 12. In Creston, they range from $2.11 per litre to $2.14 per litre. In Nelson, prices are similar to Cranbrook at $2.13 per litre and in Castlegar they range from $2.12 per litre to $2.13 per litre. In Grand Forks the average price is $2.12 per litre.

In Vancouver, prices range from $1.95 per litre to $1.99 per litre.

De Haan likened it to a marathon.

“Everyone is going to cross the finish line, but some cities will cross sooner, some will see those prices drop faster,” De Haan said.

Over the Canada Day weekend, many stations in B.C. began to lower their prices. De Haan told Black Press at the time that the price drops are part of a global trend as wholesale gas prices decline. Oil is now down about $40 a barrel from its peak in early March.

READ: B.C. gas prices expected to drop below $2/litre mark: analyst

READ: Small business group calls for relief at pumps amid high fuel costs

When asked if the provincial government’s low carbon fuel standard, and having to transport fuel throughout the Kootenays, is a factor in the pricing, De Haan said it’s more about competition.

He says that the low carbon fuel standard has “always been a factor”, and questioned why that would be making such a difference now.

“That isn’t new, it has always been the case — competition is a huge factor,” De Haan said.

B.C.’s low carbon fuel standard was established in 2008 and implemented in 2013. It’s intended to set carbon intensity targets that decline each year. Fuel suppliers generate credits for supplying fuels with a CI below targets and receive debits for supplying fuels with a CI above the targets.

De Haan estimates that the Kootenays should see some relief at the pumps soon, but cautioned drivers to shop competitively as well.

“If people are still buying gasoline at that price, why lower it?” he said.

De Haan recommends finding gas stations with lower prices and supporting them in order to drive down competitive pricing.

“Consumers should shop around and try to patronize places with lower prices,” said DeHaan. “Delay purchasing if you can, the prices will come down.”

With files from Jane Skrypnek.

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Corey Bullock

About the Author: Corey Bullock

Corey Bullock is a multimedia journalist and writer who grew up in Burlington, Ontario.
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