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Opinion  

Gouging at gas pumps

Everyone loves to gripe about the price of gas. So we'll do it again.

We've been enjoying relatively low fuel prices lately, but this week's jump to 109.9 cents a litre in the Okanagan is more than just a little frustrating.

That's because the commodity price of oil hovered under $50 US a barrel almost all week, closing Friday at $50.81.

Given that price, we should see retail gas prices still under a dollar – and they are in places like Kamloops (96.9) and Abbotsford (97.9), according to online watchdog gasbuddy.com.

So why the creep back up in prices?

As always, the oil industry appears quick to latch on to any excuse to jack prices up. Wednesday's refinery explosion and fire in Torrence, Calif., for example.

At face value, one might accept that as a legitimate answer. But consider that Exxon Mobil says its refinery services only about 10 per cent of the California market.

According to the company, the refinery had a capacity of 155,000 barrels per day, and the damaged unit could be out of commission for up to six months.

California is home to just over 10 per cent of the United States' population, so this incident is a mere blip on the radar. The net effect of one tenth of one tenth of the American supply of oil going offline is one per cent of the total U.S. market. Peanuts.

It's not enough to affect the price of tea in China, let alone the international price of oil – especially when there is a glut of oil on the market and the economy is sluggish, so demand is low.

But Big Oil can get away with it, because it literally has us over a barrel. Where else are you gonna go when all stations put their prices up in lock step?

What explanation is there other than sheer corporate greed? How angry would motorists be if the price of parking or insurance fluctuated like oil? There'd be riots in the streets.

Before our blood pressure gets too high, we'll leave you with one positive thought: at least we're not in Vancouver, where the price of gas on Friday was 116.9 per litre.

— News Director Jon Manchester

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