Gas prices have been falling across North America — but not so much here in the West Kootenay. One fuel price analyst says local gas stations are to blame.
“They’ve got some ‘splaining to do,” says Dan McTeague of Gasbuddy.com.
While drivers in the East Kootenay are paying anywhere from $1.03 to $1.16 for a litre of regular gas, and Okanagan residents can fill up for $1.17, prices in the West Kootenay have hovered at $1.27 for weeks — two cents above the provincial average.
And they’ve stayed there even as the price for wholesale gas has dropped.
“That’s remarkable,” says McTeague, after going over local numbers. “That’s crazy. What’s happening there is your retailers are charging about a 24-cent retail margin, which is double the national average.”
Wholesale prices for regular gas shipped out of Calgary are about 59 cents a litre, and 69 cents if purchased wholesale in Kamloops. But even taking the usual transportation surcharge, doubling it, and adding all the taxes, McTeague estimates the gas is costing retailers about $1.06 or $1.07.
“They could make the argument that, ‘Hey, we’ve had this in our tanks we had to replace three weeks ago when it was 10 cents higher,’” he says. “You could say they’re still paying for prices for a month ago.
“But the difference between that $1.06 and $1.27 is what’s called the retail margin, and that’s pretty fat and pretty damn generous.”
There’s nothing much consumers can do about it, he says, except be aware of what you’re paying.
“They’ve got a good thing going here,” he says of the retailers. But he also warns that they can push it too far, and points to what happens to small commercial retailers when big-box stores like Costco move into a community.
“I’ve warned many, many communities like this, ‘You guys keep pulling this kind of stunt where your margins are so fat, and you’re laughing all the way to the bank … but be careful because you will get someone who will come in and doesn’t care and will champion [the consumer] and knock you down.’
“But who can do that? Unless you are a big-box store.”