'People are shaking their heads': Record highs on the way for B.C. gas prices, analyst warns

One expert thinks growing car ownership numbers and engines with more horsepower are part of the equation behind higher prices.

Dan McTeague predicts prices hovering around $1.60 a litre from April until September

The cost of gas in Vancouver has risen to near record levels. (David Horemans/CBC)

Drivers in British Columbia should brace for record high gasoline prices this summer and the financial pain has the potential to spread across the country, says a petroleum industry analyst.

Dan McTeague of the online tech company GasBuddy predicts that beginning in April and continuing to September, gasoline prices across much of B.C.'s South Coast will hover around $1.60 a litre.

He blames the hike on high demand and chronically short supply, made even worse by Friday's announcement that the Olympic pipeline that distributes gasoline throughout Washington and Oregon will be taken off-line for four or five days of maintenance.

Prices across Vancouver hit about $1.55 over the weekend, while Victoria remained around $1.40, but McTeague warns southern Vancouver Island could see an eight-cent-a-litre leap as the ripple from short supplies and climbing local taxes spreads.

The high for a litre of gasoline in Metro Vancouver was set on June 22, 2014, when the price was just under $1.56.

McTeague said some analysts fear higher prices will spread east.

"People are shaking their heads," he said. "It's become quite the story, with some national overtones."

'Prohibitive' prices

McTeague said other parts of the country are not looking at the same prices for gas, particularly because of B.C.'s taxes on gas.

"It's not quite the same thing, you are not dealing with 50-cent-a-litre taxes and you are not dealing with a shortage in the same way Vancouver is experiencing," he said. "But it does suggest, I think, the likelihood of breaking the all-time record in Vancouver will likely happen this week."

In other parts of the country on Monday, the average price for gas was just under $1.14 a litre in Edmonton, about $1.25 in Toronto and around $1.12 in Halifax.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline supplies about 50 per cent of the gasoline for B.C.'s South Coast, but McTeague says it is already congested and can't meet the region's demand.

The expected lengthy maintenance shutdown of the Parkland refinery, which McTeague said carries 25 per cent of the Vancouver-area's gasoline, has further crimped supply, while the low dollar adds to the expense of topping up from Washington state refineries.

"By any stretch or by any measure, the price you are paying in Vancouver is, for most people, prohibitive," said McTeague.

Los Angeles is the other city in North America where gas prices are unusually high, selling at $3.50 a gallon. But McTeague said even when the exchange rate and other factors are calculated, B.C. drivers would pay about $5.00 for a gallon.

The high for a litre of gasoline in Metro Vancouver was set on June 22, 2014, when the price was just under $1.56. (David Horemans/CBC)

Impact of more vehicles

But one expert thinks vehicle choices by people in Metro Vancouver could be part of the equation for the high prices.

Dennis DesRosiers runs Automotive Consultants, a company in Canada that works exclusively in the automotive sector.

DesRosiers says consumers in B.C. are buying light trucks at record rates and the average horsepower of a vehicle today is almost 100 more than a decade ago.

"The consumers in British Columbia are accepting light vehicle ownership at record paces and that means that there are millions more vehicles on the road," he said.

"I don't care how fuel efficient they are: that's obviously going to mean an impact on the climate change issues."

DesRosiers says some drivers may have purchased less fuel efficient vehicles when gas was cheaper over the last 10 years and are now paying the price at the pump.

With files from Angela Sterritt

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