What’s driving fuel prices? Constantly changing cost of gasoline confuses motorists
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Two gas stations, side-by-side on Ness Avenue, less than a minute’s drive apart. At the Shell station, gas is $1.679 a litre on Monday. Just across the street, the Domo is offering regular gasoline at $1.59 a litre.
The constantly-changing cost of gas across the city has confused drivers just trying to get the best deal they can. At a nearby Portage Avenue gas station, 58-year-old Susan Meged said she balked at the $1.87 per litre gas cost just a few weeks ago. On Monday, she paid $1.67 — a difference large enough to have an impact on how much she’s able to spend on other expenses.
“I was scared, because really, that’s groceries right there,” she said while pumping gas. “That’s groceries. It’s ridiculous.”
It’s a relief to Meged to see the cost change, but it’s not easy to keep track of what gas stations have the most affordable options, especially on top of keeping track of the rising costs of everything else.
“I have to watch my pockets now … I’m tired, mentally I’m very tired,” she said.
Prices range from gas bar to gas bar wherever you go — as of Monday, a litre of gas cost $1.64 at the St. James Street Canadian Tire, but $1.67 at the Domo on Academy Road. Farther north, the 1656 Main Street Husky listed their gas at $1.669.
While some take to social media to share the news when they come across a cheap spot for gas, others say the cents-per-litre difference isn’t enough to pull them away from their nearest pump.
Alvin Grospe, a 19-year-old university student, said he had no plans to seek out a cheaper pump from his regular Shell, because the one he uses is close to his home.
“If you think about it, you’re spending gas already driving,” he said.
“Say, if I found gas cheaper in Bridgwater or up in the north end, you’re basically spending the gas that you would have saved, I would say, driving up there. So it’s basically pointless, in my opinion.”
Others use online resources. Fuel tracking website GasBuddy.com listed the average price of gas in Winnipeg at $1.66 per litre Monday afternoon — a full 8.3 cents cheaper than last week’s average cost. The website collects gas prices and updates a list of the cheapest stations across the city and province — a resource people can use to navigate price shifts from place to place.
Oil and gasoline have gotten cheaper, GasBuddy head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan said, in part due to rising economic concerns internationally — the U.S. market, which affects Canadian prices, is at risk of a slow-down. China, one of the largest oil-consuming countries in the world, is dealing with rising COVID-19 cases and shutdowns.
Those factors trickle down to the different prices Winnipeggers see on their daily commute, DeHaan said.
“It’s not too normal to see such a decline that we’ve seen, and that is probably precipitating large differences between stations, some gas bars lowering their prices much quicker than others,” he said. “So that is probably sparking an additional level of seeming discontent amongst motorists.”
It’s a matter of some retailers passing on those savings to consumers quicker than others — because Canada’s gas market is unregulated, and prices are subject to quickly change, some stations may be sitting on gas they paid much more for than others and are still looking to turn a profit on it.
“It’s hard for stations and gas bars to want to lose money by undercutting each other,” DeHaan said. “And that’s just the luck of the draw, some stations probably had better timing, but nobody could have expected this.”
The people working at the pumps have watched the prices change and taken clients’ concerns in stride.
Karan Karan, a gas jockey working at the 427 Academy Road Domo, said he often gets questions as to why his location — currently at $1.67 per litre, but was $1.73 just days ago — is sometimes priced differently from nearby stations.
He tries his best to explain that some stations have to be more competitive than others, to varied responses.
“Lots of people get angry, they’re just coming and putting in only $10 and $20,” he said. “Before this, lots of people would just fill their tanks.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.