July 31 2008 by Ellen Roseman
Luckily for me, I have a round-trip of about eight kilometres to work. I drive my husband to his office and park at Loblaws for $5 a day.
So, high gas prices haven’t hurt our household much. But for long-distance commuters, the rising cost of filling up the tank has thrown their budgets out of whack.
I’ve been scouring the Internet to find a breakdown of wholesale and retail prices, as well as tips on getting more for your money. It’s been “a gas” tracking down the information.
Let’s start with Fuel Focus, an attempt by the federal government to educate consumers about gas prices without doing anything to regulate them. It’s badly out of date, showing gas at $1.40 a litre for the week of July 15, ignoring all the recent price slippage.
The Toronto Gas Prices website shows you a range from lowest ($1.24) to highest ($1.28.8). That’s for regular gas.
As I wrote in my column this week, motorists now pay an wider spread for premium gas. In Toronto, premium ranges from $1.36 to $140.4 a litre. What used to be a 10-cent gap is now 12 cents. Maybe those still using premium gas have European or high-end Japanese cars and they’re fairly insensitive to price.
Dan McTeague, Liberal MP and consumer affairs critic, is a long-time student of pump prices. He goes out on a limb each afternoon and predicts tomorrow’s gas price in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. You can subscribe to his RSS feed and get the upcoming price in your inbox each day, so you can fill up fast or wait a few hours to save a little money.
Petro-Canada, the only Canadian owned oil company, is trying to be more hip and consumer-friendly by starting a blog. The latest post (July 31) talks about the high octane issue. And on July 29, it discusses best practices for corporate bloggers, such as disclosing their true identity and any conflicts of interest. Remember the CEO of Whole Foods pretending to be someone else, while downgrading a rival retailer?
The Pump Talk blog has three writers and an editor, all Petro-Can employees. They refer to the always well researched MJ Ervin, a Calgary consultant to the petroleum industry, which publishes weekly pump prices across Canada. At least, this survey is relatively up to date, with prices from July 29.
Canadian politicians have studied possible gouging by oil companies again and again. To see a list of the two dozen federal and provincial inquiries and a brief synopsis of the results, go to the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute .
In March 2006, the Competition Bureau said it had found no evidence of a national conspiracy to fix gas prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But last month, it laid charges against 13 individuals and 11 companies accused of fixing gas prices at the pump in Quebec. You’ll find details here about the case and information here about how you can help the Competition Bureau in its work to root out potential price-fixing in the Canadian retail gas market.
Before leaving the Competition Bureau, don’t ignore its warning about the waste of time and money buying so-called gas-saving devices. It links to a test of more than 100 devices by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and charges laid against the distributors of several devices (Econopro, the Fuel Saver Pro and the Platinum Vapour Injector) in Canada.
Did you hear that the temperature of the fuel you pump into your tank affects how much you spend and how much fuel is ultimately consumed? There are watchdogs in the United States to protect consumers against hot fuel here and here.
Finally, I found a neat website dedicated to making all cars get 40 miles per gallon or better. (I wish I knew how to convert 40 mpg to metric measurements.) Only Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid are reaching that goal now, but you can get quick ratings for all 2007 models here
Please add your suggestions and tips. And can someone explain why diesel gas, which used to be much cheaper than regular gasoline, is now more expensive?