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Gas pump shock: Atlantic Canadians will have to consider options with driving season gearing up

A carbon tax on P.E.I. will mean an estimated two cents per litre increase on gasoline each year for five years.
Heading into "driving season," some energy analysts say there could be record highs for gasoline and diesel prices. - FILE GRAPHIC

Atlantic Canadians will have to consider options with driving season gearing up

The Victoria Day long weekend was only the beginning of the pain to be felt at the pumps this summer.

All indications point to potential record highs for gasoline and diesel prices as we head into “driving season,” according to many energy analysts.

According to GasBuddy.com’s average gasoline price index on Wednesday, the cost ranged from 130.6 cents a litre in New Brunswick, 132.7 cents/litre in Nova Scotia, 133.0 centres/litre in Prince Edward Island and 139.9 cents/litre in Newfoundland and Labrador.

But since you’re likely reading this on Monday, those numbers likely have changed and not in a consumer-friendly direction, either.

Dan McTeague, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, wrote in a recent blog the surge in prices over the past few months compared to last year “has many wondering if the sudden spike in fuel prices might cause a chill in demand, setting the stage for a correction in prices.”

That’s highly unlikely.

He said because the world demand for refined oil products is considerably higher than in the past, the domestic production not being used by North American consumers is now being shipped off to other regions, in particular, Mexico and Latin America.

“Little wonder that a growing number of energy experts are targeting higher oil prices for the next few years. Some suggest that $85 Brent oil isn’t far away and that $100 a barrel could be attained sometime in 2019.”

The cost of retail regular unleaded gasoline in Nova Scotia is, on average, 23 cents/litre more expensive than at this point last year. That jump is reflected in New Brunswick with a 22.3-cent hike, and even higher in P.E.I. at an increase of 26.2 cents, according to GasBuddy.

Newfoundland and Labrador was the one outlier with only an eight-cent rise in gasoline costs from a year ago.

It will no doubt have an impact on driving habits this year — walking instead of driving to the corner store, changes in itinerary on your family vacation on the road and shutting off your idling car while waiting to pick up your child from soccer practice. 

Last year, GasBuddy forecasted a tougher year in 2018 for drivers than the past few, with an average gas price of $1.19 per litre nationwide over the year — the highest since 2014.

Based on the projections, Atlantic Canadians could come close to hitting record-high prices for gasoline this summer.

However, there may be a few ways to decrease the amount of gasoline and diesel used on a weekly basis.

Canadian Automobile Association Atlantic provides some enviro-friendly, and yes, pocket-friendly tips to reduce the amount of fuel consumption.

Some are obvious while others may not necessarily be top-of-mind, such as removing excess weight such as roof racks when not in use.

CAA’s advice also includes avoiding jackrabbit starts and hard braking, keeping tires properly inflated but be careful not to overinflate and combining trips around town or consider carpooling. Also, reduce highway speed and use cruise control as fuel consumption will increase above speeds of 90 kilometres an hour.

Once you lengthen the period of time between fillups, it will likely make you think the price at the pump is (somewhat) easier to bear. 

Chris Shannon is the business reporter at the Cape Breton Post in Sydney, N.S. 

He can be reached via email at chris.shannon@cbpost.com or on Twitter @cbpost_chris

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