A pain in the pump

I have just returned from a quick drive across the province to Vancouver, and my first thought is thank goodness I drive a fuel efficient vehicle.

I began my trip by filling up in Kimberley, the day after gas prices rose here. Of course. Such is my lot in life. With my real estate history being of the ‘buy high, sell low’ variety, it is my way to always buy just after the prices go up. Nonetheless, price increase or not, the $1.37 I paid in Kimberley was the lowest gas price I encountered on my journey across the province. I paid $1.46 in Salmon Arm. I paid a staggering $1.78 in Vancouver. On the return, it was $1.43 in Merritt and $1.48 in Golden.

So yes, expensive.

Meanwhile, our neighbours in Alberta are paying a lot less. B.C. Premier John Horgan recently announced that the province is going to ask oil companies to explain to the B.C. Utilities Commission why the retail price in this province is so much higher than in Alberta.

Horgan says that wholesale, pre-tax prices are 24 cents per litre higher in Vancouver than in Edmonton. And that’s got nothing to do with the gas tax. That’s just the wholesale price. Horgan also said that historically, the difference in the wholesale price is 2.5 to 4 cents per litre, but right now it’s 24 cents.

In his mind, oil companies have some ‘splainin to do. I really look forward to hearing the explanations, but I somehow doubt it’s going to be satisfactory.

It really does make you think about electric vehicles being a good option.

BC Hydro recently released data stating that switching from a gas powered car to an electric one could save thousands of dollars per year on the average commute. That average is about 20 kilometres each day.

There are currently more than 18,000 electric vehicles in B.C. and BC Hydro says by 2030 that number will go up to 350,000. For commuting, the electric vehicle is the way to go, there’s no doubt about it.

The trouble is, if you drive like I do when on a driving vacation — that is to say, doing over 1,000 kilometres in a day, the electric vehicle is not practical.

Although charging stations are starting to pop up more and more, there are not enough of them. There certainly aren’t electric car plug ins at many roadside motels.

And the range on the best of the all-electric vehicles isn’t great. The best rated ones, such as the Nissan Leaf, will go about 240 kilometres. The Chevy Bolt will do about 380 and some of the Teslas can go 480 kilometres. That’s still not a full day’s drive though.

Improvements are being made on charging times, but they vary widely depending on the vehicle.

While electric vehicles certainly save you from pain at the pumps, your pain comes in a different form as they are more expensive upfront. Yes, there are usually some form of government rebates available. In fact right now, you can get up to $10,000 in rebates in provincial and federal rebates on the purchase of an electric vehicle. There are long term savings as well, but sticker price is sticker price and that price will likely stay high until a lot more people buy in to the electric vehicle and automakers manufacture more of them.

And people are unlikely to buy into them until more improvements are made.

You can go the hybrid route, but again, expensive up front.

So, at the moment, those of us who still take long drives remain hostage to high gas prices. And while Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals are trying desperately to blame those high prices on the NDP, that really doesn’t hold water.

Yes, we have a gas tax, and in Vancouver there is also a fairly hefty TransLink tax. The carbon tax itself is less than 9 cents per litre. So even if the carbon tax was cancelled entirely, we’d still be paying a lot more for gas than Albertans do.

Well, the Albertans that stay home that is.

As I drove the continuous line of traffic on the Trans Canada this past Monday, I noticed that about 70 per cent of the vehicles heading east had Alberta plates.

So while enjoying our great outdoors over the long weekend, they also got a taste of our great gas prices. No doubt when they complain to Premier Jason Kenney about it, he’ll fix it, as he has promised to do to their economy.

Or he’ll turn off the taps to B.C. so we won’t have to complain about high prices any more.

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