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Pain at the pumps

Wayne Bagnall fills his car at Duncan’s Chevron in the shadow of pump prices that rose 10¢ per litre to $1.39.9 overnight Wednesday. Supreme fuel fetched $1.53.9 Thursday. - Peter W. Rusland
Wayne Bagnall fills his car at Duncan’s Chevron in the shadow of pump prices that rose 10¢ per litre to $1.39.9 overnight Wednesday. Supreme fuel fetched $1.53.9 Thursday.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

“Ouch!” was Judy Bagnall’s reaction to Thursday’s overnight gas-price hike across Duncan.

She and husband Wayne winced at the 10-cent long weekend price hop — to $1.39.9 for regular petrol — but were thankful Duncan’s per-litre price remained among the island’s lowest.

According to gasbuddy.com, gauges between Mill Bay and Nanaimo sat in a $1.39.9 trough between Victoria’s $1.42.9, and $1.45.9 on most Parksville pumps Thursday.

Many Port Alberni stations charged an island high of $1.47.9. Litre costs lightened to $1.42.9 in Courtenay-Comox.

Fluctuating fuel figures bugged the Bagnalls.

“They’re greedy,” Judy said of oil-company monopolies.

But while being interviewed during a Thursday fill-up at the Duncan Chevron, the local couple admitted motorists have little choice but to pay the piper.

“We have to bite the bullet,” said Wayne, while Judy was reluctant to have the province control gas prices. “I don’t want the government in things any further than they are.”

But valley-born Brittany Mayo welcomed a government ceiling on nozzle numbers.

“A cap would be a great idea. Of course, oil companies are trying to take our money,” the Dawson Creek resident said at the local pump.

To curb that grab, drivers should use public transit as much as possible, suggested Mayo.

“We need alternatives to gas.”

“My alternative,” said Victoria’s Michael Fekete, “is a (hybrid) Prius.”

His family tried to buy an electric Smart Car, but those models were sold out, he said, noting he uses his big Toyota Sequoia only when hauling his camper trailer.

Fekete said gas prices generally mirror costs of getting oil out of the ground, but some dealers do charge less per litre.

And like Judy Bagnall, Fekete rejected Victoria’s interference.

“Every time government gets involved, it’s worse. Companies just find a way around what they’re regulated for.”

Still, Allen Brumwell said the province and citizens should help regulate prices for gas and other essentials.

“Oil companies are starting to gouge. Any essential service should be monitored by government and lobby groups.”

Valerie Smith of Victoria said she monitored pump prices to find the best deal.

“I watched the prices change overnight (Wednesday), and Duncan was the cheapest,” she said, northbound to Buckley Bay.

Alberta trucker Tom Hearsey said price jumps give oil firms a bad name.

“It’s a money grab. They all instantly put their prices up. How’s that work, if it’s not price fixing?”

Pump prices, GasBuddy’s Jason Toews told the Times Colonist, are fuelled by increases in light, sweet crude oil, which closed Tuesday at $103.82 US per barrel.

Another factor, he said, is a weakening of Canada’s loonie against the U.S. greenback.

Economics aside, Hearsey suggested folks lobby their MLAs for price controls.

“I’m at a loss about what to do.”

Erik Lythgoe’s solution was stockpiling low-price fuel at his Victoria home.

“I keep a tank farm, and when there’s a price war I fill up at my house,” the Lexus and Subaru Forester owner said of some 300 litres stashed in an out building.

However, Lythgoe’s ideal answer was to not use petrol at all.

“My next car’s going to be electric.”

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