Photo Credit: Image from CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Why did Horgan Hand Big Oil $1.3 Billion of Our Money, But Let Them Gouge Us at the Pump?

Instead of opening their books, oil and gas companies lawyered up

Despite getting stiiffed by Big Oil, the BCUC discovered at least an extra 10 to 13 cents being added to every litre

Do you ever wonder why you’re paying so much at the fuel pump? If so, you’re not alone.

British Columbians, especially those of us on the West Coast, traditionally pay a lot more for a litre of gas than most other Canadians. Right now, Quebecers are paying roughly $1.20/L whole we’re shelling out close to $1.60.

Most of Vancouver Island’s gas comes from Alberta via the TransMountain pipeline and rail. Once it gets to Vancouver, the fuel is loaded onto barges and shipped to Nanaimo. From there, it’s pumped into tanker trucks and delivered to filling stations around the island. So it makes sense that shipping gas from Alberta would add to the price at BC pumps.

But the question is, how much are refiners, wholesalers and retailers marking up gas before they sell it to us? Wouldn’t you like to know?

The world of gasoline prices is a shady business.

In 2019, under pressure to do something about rising prices, the Horgan government passed a law to force oil and gas companies to open up their books – where they get it, how much it costs and how much they mark it up. The numbers were supposed to be sent to the BC Utilities Commission, making them public so everyone would know the extent of the gouge.

Well, it never happened.

Instead, big oil and major gas retailers circled the wagons. Esso, Chevron, Husky, Imperial Oil, 7 Eleven, Parkland (the company that owns the Burnaby oil refinery,) and pretty much everyone else along the supply chain refused to provide the full information.

Big Oil lawyered up and tasked the expensive suits to fight the legislation. Like the tobacco industry, big oil and gas have dirty secrets they clearly don’t want us to know about.

When the BC Utilities Commission did its analysis, it discovered at least an extra 10 to 13 cents being added to every litre of gas that couldn’t be explained. What a surprise.

You’d think the oil companies’ behaviour would piss Horgan off. After all, since they took over, Horgan’s government has doubled the handouts to Big Oil. His government spent $1.3 billion on fossil fuel subsidies between 2020 and 2021 even though the NDP promised in their 2020 election platform to “a comprehensive review of oil and natural gas royalty credits.”

You’d think with that amount of cash, Horgan could get oil companies to play ball.

Apparently not.

But did he even try?

Part of the problem is the market; it’s not truly competitive. A small number of companies own most of the supply and act like a cartel when it comes to pricing. Federal and provincial taxes, along with BC’s carbon tax, add to the cost for sure.

Another part of the problem is BC’s dependence on refineries in Alberta and the United States. BC has two refineries that don’t nearly meet the needs of BC.

 Yeah, we need to ween ourselves off oil and gas if the fight against climate change has any chance to succeed.

But we also need transparency in gas pricing.

It’s something that has been talked about a lot over the years. The problem is, no government has yet been tough enough to crack the code of silence that shrouds big oil and allows them to keep gouging consumers.