Nfld. & Labrador

Ups and downs felt with rise of fuel prices in N.L.

With gasoline prices soaring into record highs throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, some are afraid of the implications, while others are worried about breaking the bank. 

Gas prices hitting record highs

With the cost of gas on the rise, consumers are feeling the pinch at the pumps. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

With gasoline prices soaring into record highs throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, some are afraid of the implications, while others are worried about breaking the bank. 

Throughout St. John's gasoline costs about $1.50 per litre, and higher again in other parts of the island. In parts of Labrador it's almost $1.80. The increase is due to higher carbon taxes and rising oil prices as the global economy slowly emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Derek Hayter, manager of Newfound Cabs, which also operates a bus fleet, told CBC News taxi companies are struggling to cope. 

"It's ultimately the taxi driver who pays for it, and the owner of the company who pays for it. And bus operators too," Hayter said. 

"It takes money out of the pocket of the individual and out of the company."

Hayter said rate increases aren't the answer either.

"To increase the rates to compensate for the price of gas, [it] will drive business away. So it's a catch-22," he said. 

On the rise

Dennis O'Keefe, founder of the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices, says he's worried about the hike. 

"I'm afraid, not only of where it is, but where it could be in another month or two with the rising price of a barrel of oil," said O'Keefe, the former mayor of St. John's.

Petroleum prices in Newfoundland and Labrador are regulated by the Public Utilities Board, and O'Keefe said the PUB needs its pricing formula to see if it works in today's economy. 

O'Keefe said he also believes a tax cut or rebates should be considered, since the consumer price is nearly 40 per cent taxes. 

"There are other creative avenues that might be taken by the province, given the situation," he said. 

Dennis O'Keefe, founder of the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices, says he's worried about the hike in gas prices. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Opposition PC leader David Brazil told CBC News immediate action needs to be taken.

"We feel that an immediate position here needs to be taken to ensure that the price of gasoline is either lowered, or that people can understand that they'll get a rebate at the end of it," Brazil said.

"So if it's money out of their pockets now, they'll get reimbursed at the end of the day so it doesn't change their lifestyle."

Double-edged sword

O'Keefe said he understands there are two sides to the debate. Newfoundland and Labrador is an oil-producing province, reliant on the price of oil to provide revenue, but the price of oil also hits taxpayers' wallets.

"For us here in Newfoundland and Labrador it's kind of like sitting on the sword. We love to see the price of a barrel go up because of what it does for the provincial economy, but we hate to see the price of a barrel go up because of the way it hits us at the pumps," O'Keefe said. 

It was only weeks ago when questions were raised about whether the oil and gas industry could survive the pandemic, and a spotlight shown on a shift to green energy.

Gas prices are on the rise due to a rebounding global oil industry and higher carbon taxes. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

However, higher oil prices are increasing optimism. Oil companies are preparing once again to invest, as seen in June when a tentative deal was struck to save the Terra Nova oilfield.

For people like Natasha Hunt of transportation company Hunt's Logistics, it's good news. 

"We're happy to see where the price is right now. We hope it doesn't go too much higher; we understand it affects the consumer," Hunt said. 

"But ultimately we're happy to see some of the price of oil and gas come back, and hopefully that will mean more jobs and more projects for everyone here in our economy in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Hunt's company provides shipping options for customers, so the increased cost of fuel means an increased cost of doing business. 

Hunt said her company has invested in new, automatic trucks to keep fuel emissions down and is also focused on driver training and speed monitoring.

"That has helped us greatly control and maintain those costs," she said. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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