Nfld. & Labrador

N.L.'s energy minister would 'love to' change record gas prices, but it's not that easy

With the new price in effect, a litre of self-serve unleaded gas on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula can sell for as much as $1.548.

Gas up by as much as 1.6 cents

Gas prices in Newfoundland and Labrador are going up for the third consecutive week. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

As gas prices in Newfoundland and Labrador reach a record high for the third week in a row, Energy Minister Andrew Parsons suggests he's not facing an easy fix to pain at the pumps.

The Public Utilities Board, which regulates fuel prices across the province, increased the price of all grades of gasoline on Thursday by 1.6 cents per litre Thursday.

The new price means a litre of self-serve unleaded gas on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula can sell for as much as $1.548.

"It's not fun. There's nothing good about it in many ways," Parsons said. "We're all certainly feeling the pain. We're seeing it all over the province, no matter where you are."

In central Newfoundland, for example, a litre of self-serve could cost as much as $1.573. That price is marginally lower in western Labrador, where prices sit at $1.544.

Diesel has also increased by 0.3 cents a litre, with stove and furnace heating oil jumping up 0.23 cents per litre.

Propane has also gone up by two cents per litre.

The province's current record-setting path is fuelled by an increase in oil prices, a weaker Canadian dollar and a provincially collected carbon tax that came into effect July 1.

Energy Minister Andrew Parsons says altering the price of gas on a provincial level would be difficult, as it's not something entirely controlled by the provincial government. (Patrick Butler/CBC)

The price of gas is also determined by the PUB through a complex equation, something Parsons says he would like to see simplified to better show the public how prices are set.

"What I will say, and I'll say this as a consumer as well … a lot of people say, 'Well, the price of oil's going up so I guess I'm paying more. The price of oil goes down, I guess I'm gonna pay less.' It's absolutely not that simple," he said.

Global issue, local impact

When asked by CBC News about how some of the prices are set, the Public Utilities Board says it's often guided by provincial legislation. With the Public Utilities Act falling under the Department of Justice and Public Safety, Parsons said there is room — albeit limited room — to effect change.

"It's one thing to say just change the price. I'd love to do that, but we all know that what you take from one side you're gonna feel on the other," he said.

"We're here having all these conversations about the $47-billion [debt] that this province has. If you have this conversation here, we're going to have to have the same conversation in a whole number of fronts.… I would want to see it lower, but I also realize that to take it from here, you're going to be paying it back somewhere else."

Parsons said his department is working on ways to address policies that cause pain at the pump, like the five cents that comes with the province's carbon tax.

However, he admitted he's taking on a challenge, as the price of gas is affected by a global market and multiple levels of government.

"I don't feel for a second that it is solely a provincial government issue, but I think it's something we absolutely have responsibility for," he said.

"But we have to work with all the partners to make things better, to make things different. And if we can find a way to reduce reliance? I'm there."

The following chart shows how gas prices have changed recently at Newfoundland and Labrador retailers, as reported by users of the GasBuddy.com website.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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