The gas price knot

Gas pumps have taken on a whole new personality these days. In some ways they've become the "water-cooler" of commuters.

As I filled up my SUV recently, groan, neighbourly chat started as usual with the vehicle driver next to me.

"Well, at least it's down a little," I ventured.

"It's still outrageous," said the other driver.

"Well, maybe it will make us all think about driving so much," I said trying to be cheerful.

"Not it won't," was the answer. "I just go out less and I'm trying to spend less on food. I need my car to get to work and drive my kids to activities. I had to go to Vancouver for doctor's appointments. Those things can't really be changed so I have to change the things I can.

"It's a scam. Somebody's making money. Gas should be affordable in Canada."

I didn't really have a reply to that. And it's not having a reply to the outrage which is being felt by people all across Canada and elsewhere that may lie behind the federal Conservative government's decision to form a parliamentary committee on the issue.

"No one can understand why (in 2008) when oil per barrel was around $140 or $150 we were paying $1.37 per litre, when this year oil is south of $98 a barrel and yet we're paying more," Industry Minister Tony Clement told a news conference outside a Toronto family home last week as reported by Canadian Press.

"It's not transparent enough how these prices are arrived at."

This comes at a time when oil executives in the U.S. have been testifying before congressional committees about proposals to repeal tax breaks for large oil companies. And U.S. drivers are paying less for gas than we are.

It's not clear what our federal committee will accomplish at this point as no producers or retailers have said they will even appear to explain why gas costs so much and the general volatility of the market.

Gas price watcher Dan McTeague (tommorowsgaspricestoday.com) said he's worried an appearance at the parliamentary committee will be a waste of time.

"The volatility we saw at the pumps this past fortnight will not end with empty pronouncements by politicians to haul oil execs on the carpet at some future date, nor be adequately addressed by a phalanx of dismissive 'experts' who have an economic interest in avoiding the true reasons behind the upheaval and chaos in the energy futures markets," blogged the former Liberal Member of Parliament.

"As articulated for several years on this site, unregulated, over-the-counter markets are creating artificial demand for crude products and other commodities such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.


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