COLUMN: Considering the price at the gas pump

At our current price, it costs \$69.45 to fill a 50-litre tank — more for mid-grade or premium gasoline

It’s hard to feel good about rising gasoline prices.

At the time of this writing, regular unleaded gasoline in Summerland is at \$1.389 a litre at the stations in town, and according to some speculations, the price is expected to jump within the next day or two.

At our current price, it costs \$69.45 to fill a 50-litre tank — more for those using mid-grade or premium gasoline.

And in the metro Vancouver area, gas prices have topped \$1.70 for some time. If I lived there, I’d have to spend at least \$85 on the same 50-litre fill.

To put the prices into perspective, consider that in 1994 — 25 years ago — gas in the Okanagan Valley was 49.9 cents a litre.

Gas has almost tripled in price since that time, but I doubt if wages have risen by the same amount.

Some will remember the days around 50 years ago when the price of gas was 25 cents for an Imperial gallon. That’s 5.5 cents a litre.

No wonder motorists are complaining about the cost of driving. Today’s prices are high enough to cause gas pains.

But after a look at some other prices, the cost of gasoline doesn’t seem all that bad.

Milk is \$3.49 for a two-litre container, so filling a 50-litre tank at that cost would be \$87.25.

Orange juice costs \$5.49 for a 1.65-litre carton. Using this price, filling a 50-litre tank with orange juice would cost \$166.36.

A 1.5-litre container of ice cream costs \$6.99, which means 50 litres would set me back \$233.

A 400-ml bottle of shampoo has a regular price of \$9.49. Filling a 50-litre tank with shampoo would come in at \$1,186.25.

Toothpaste is even more expensive. A 130-ml tube costs \$5.99. Filling a tank with 50 litres of toothpaste would cost \$2,303.85.

And those who are shopping for fragrances and perfumes are best off not calculating the price based on a 50-litre fill.

Each of these substances costs a lot more per litre than gasoline, but I don’t hear consumer outrage over the price of toothpaste or orange juice.

Earlier this month, some motorists, upset with the rising prices, called for a one-day “gas out” protest.

Drivers were told not to fill their tanks on April 15 as a protest and a way to drive down fuel prices. (Filling up on April 14 or April 16 was okay.)

Those supporting this protest said a similar event in 1997 resulted in an overnight drop in gas prices by 30 cents a litre, although I do not recall any substantial price drop that year, and I was not able to find any record of a sudden and substantial price drop that year.

This leads me to believe the “gas out” initiative is more of a symbolic gesture than an effective method at price control.

I understand the frustrationbehind the “gas out” protest, but I haven’t heard of a “milk out” protest where consumers are told not to buy milk on a specific day. I haven’t heard anyone asking customers to hold one-day actions as a way of protesting the cost of shampoo or perfume.

Of course, to be fair, I don’t know of anyone who buys 50 litres of these items every week or two.

With gasoline, it’s different.

Many of us consider it to be an essential purchase, while we do not consider any specific grocery item to be an essential item.

Because of this dependence on gasoline, motorists tend to feel much more passionately about the price at the pumps than about the prices of other items. And so a high pump price tends to bring out a much stronger response than an increase in the price of a tube of toothpaste.

That reminds me. I need to stop at the store and pick up a few things before I drive home.

And no, I won’t flinch at the price.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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