For people living in the Vancouver area, high gas prices are the tradeoff for living close to mountains and the ocean.
How else to justify paying the highest gas prices in North America - a fact confirmed by a recent study from GasBuddy.com.
The gas-tracking website looked at gas prices in about 5,500 communities across Canada and the U.S. and found the 10 most expensive were in the Vancouver area, according to reports. Based on prices at the pump on Aug. 8, Delta, B.C. was the most expensive place to fill up, at $1.44 per litre. Prices in nearby Surrey, Vancouver, Coquitlam and Burnaby were close behind.
High gas taxes are to blame for the Lower Mainland’s top-price ranking, says Jason Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“Lower Mainland gas is so expensive because we have the highest gas taxes on the continent – driven primarily by the local transit authority's 17 cents per litre tax,” says Bateman, a resident of Langley, B.C.
Drivers in the Vancouver area pay about 49 cents of tax per litre, Bateman says. That includes the 17 cents from Translink, the local transit authority, as well a 6.7-cent carbon tax, 8.5 cents in provincial taxes, 10 cents in federal gas taxes, and the 5 per cent GST on top of that.
It’s these higher taxes that send so many Vancouver area drivers south of the border to fill up their gas tanks. In 2012, more than 15 million people crossed the border into the Bellingham, U.S. area, the highest level since 1997, according to the Bellingham Herald, citing data collected by Western Washington University's Center for Economics and Business Research.
While it’s unlikely everyone cross the border just to get cheaper gas, “you’d be nuts not to fill your tank up while there,” says Bateman, noting it’s about a $20 saving per 50 litres.
“One can assume the vast majority filled up.”
Bateman said hundreds of drivers in the Lower Mainland also drive east to Abbotsford, B.C., where there is no transit authority tax on gas.
“In fact, while Abbotsford's population grew 6 per cent in the past three years, its gas sales grew 18 per cent,” Bateman says.
The Lower Mainland's municipal gas tax is the highest in the country, according to Keith Schaefer, editor and publisher of the Oil and Gas Investments Bulletin
Schaefer said overall gas prices were higher this summer than last year in part because of a maintenance shutdown at a Syncrude refinery, which has taken more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day offline for the last 50 days.
“That should now be over, so gas prices should be going lower,” he says, unless of course growing unrest in Egypt continues to drive oil prices higher on concerns of supply cuts.
West Texas Intermediate crude rose for the sixth day on Friday, to just under $108 (U.S.) per a barrel.
On Friday, the average gas price across Canada was $1.31, according to GasBuddy.com. That compares to $1.28 a year ago. Alberta had the cheapest gas prices at an average of $1.16 across the province, while Quebec was paying the most at $1.42. Gas prices in B.C. and the Northwest Territories were tied at an average of $1.39. Vancouver and Montreal had the highest gas prices by city, at $1.44 per litre.
The record high for gas prices in BC was $1.47 on July 6, 2008, which was around the same time oil prices were trading at a record $145 (US) per barrel.
GasBuddy.com offers tips for drivers to conserve gas, and in turn cash, including driving slower, keeping tires inflated and using the air conditioning less.