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Friday, June 19, 2009

The following is a copy of a letter I sent off to the Prime Ministers office and the Minister of Transport for the Government of Canada on the Marine Atlantic fuel surcharge issue.

Let's see if we can get an answer!

Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
Government of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

I am writing to you today to tell you of my concern as regards to Marine Atlantic’s possible application of a round of fuel surcharges on ferry rates and what the Government of Canada can possibly do about it.

During the sailing season of June, 2007 and again in 2008, Marine Atlantic was forced to institute a round of fuel surcharges that were applied to ferry rates and passenger fares to users of the service across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This caused an undue hardship and an artificial inflation rate, especially to goods and services being used by Newfoundland and Labradoreans. Particularly hard hit was grocery items that were being transported across the Gulf by trucking companies who also recouped their added fuel surcharge expenses crossing the gulf by adding fuel surcharges onto their goods and services entering the province. In turn, these added costs were handed down to the consumer in the form of higher prices for commodities, adding more stress to consumers and businesses here.

While earlier this year (January) fuel surcharges were removed from Marine Atlantic ferry rates, prices for marine type fuels have been increasing from their near record low of last October. Prices for marine type fuels have increased since January when fuel surcharges were removed and have reached a point where Marine Atlantic will be making a decision on adding a fuel surcharge once again to Marine Atlantic ferry rates, again increasing pricing to the end user, the consumer of Newfoundland and Labrador. Today, according to my research, the price of residual fuel oils has surpassed the June, 2007 price by almost thirty per cent, making the possibility of added fuel surcharges almost imminent during the start of the auto tourist user season across the gulf. A decision by the Marine Atlantic board is due shortly on any fuel surcharge addition.

I am writing you to ask you to help Marine Atlantic absorb these costs by adding additional funding to the Marine Atlantic budget as a measure to help the Newfoundland and Labrador consumer avoid seeing an added, artificial inflation rate added to consumables as a result of added fuel costs.

This is possible for the Government of Canada to accomplish. The Government of Canada recently announced a 10.7 billion dollar investment in the automotive industry to help the Ontario economy and other areas affected by the downturn. It would be my estimate that, in order to maintain the level of consumer spending and help support the tourism industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Canada could make the strategic investment into Marine Atlantic’s fuel budget to ensure consumables and visitors to this province do not get hit with added fuel surcharges.

I’m hoping that your office and the Government of Canada can turn some of its attention to this issue and I await your reply to my query.

My regards,

George Murphy
Group researcher/member
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Final update (#3)

Oil markets still in drive mode
All fuels show increases on the way

Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, June 16, 2009- Oil prices are rising and so are the costs to the consumer with all fuel prices set to increase later this week, at least that’s according to George Murphy’s data.

Final numbers in
“Stronger numbers are in today that show all fuel users in Newfoundland and Labrador will experience increases in consumer prices this coming Thursday morning. With all data now in, consumers will see an added 2.01 cents per litre on heating and stove oil pricing, an added 2.8 cents a litre on diesel prices and a huge 6.6 cent a litre hike in gasoline pricing,” said Murphy

“In spite of inflation fears, investors are still betting on increased demand of fuel products. That, and a failing US dollar have also helped in supporting pricing to consumers that will be very noticeable later this Thursday morning with anticipated increases on the way.

Watch out for the gas and go
“With the increase in pump prices about to hit, consumers should be aware of the person next to them fueling up who may attempt the “gas and go”, a common type of theft whenever there is a run-up in pricing. As in other years, consumers have to be aware of the fact that this is a type of theft that gets passed down to the consumer in added costs to service stations. We can help avoid this problem by being aware of who you are filling up next to and making note of who the person is and what kind of car they are driving, getting the necessary data for . The last thing we need to see as consumers is the cost of theft being passed down to the consumer.”


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices
Update #2

All numbers are up...
One more day of numbers to get and here's what I have...
  • Heating and stove oils up by 1.92 a litre.
  • Diesel up by 2.7 cents per litre, and...
  • Gasoline up by 6.3 cents a litre.


Going to be a line-up at the pumps again Wednesday night...

I'll be back in here sometime after eight tomorrow night with the final but don't expect to see much change...



Saturday, June 13, 2009

Update #1
Just wait for later this week!
If you think we just might get the rout at the pumps later on this week when the PUB sets prices again, you'd be right.
With oil prices increasing and with no signs of abatement, it's looking more positive that we're going to take quite the jolt when they are set Thursday morning. To put it mildly, when we skipped out on interruption to pricing, we just missed getting a four cent a litre hit at the pumps.
Since then, oil and all it's related refined commodities, have also increased in value.
Here's what I have for this coming Thursday, keeping in mind that I have to get two more business days of data before I call the final shot on Thursday;
  • Heating and stove oil prices to increase by 1.85 cents per litre.
  • Diesel prices increase by 2.6 cents a litre, and...
  • Gasoline to increase by 6.1 cents a litre, so far.



Talk about hijacking economic recovery...



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Will prices spike this week?
Numbers show interruption a possibility

Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, June 10, 2009- The rise in oil prices this last week may leave a very sour taste in the mouth of consumers, that’s according to George Murphy, group researcher with the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices.

“I’m seeing a steady rise in the price of oil and its related commodities and that doesn’t bode well for consumers. While some numbers are close to my margin for error, I’m putting out a recommendation that we all err on the side of caution this time out because of the volatility of the markets these past few weeks. I’d much rather I was wrong more so than right sometimes,” said Murphy.

What consumers can expect this Thursday
“Numbers show large increases on the way. Heating and stove oils are expected to increase by 4.37 cents a litre, diesel by 4.7 cents a litre and gasoline by another 4.9 cents a litre. My actual on gas before the addition of taxes shows a 4.17 cent a litre increase, so that’s why the call of ‘erring on the side of caution’ in this case. The margin for error would bring it below the 4.17 cent a litre margin and hence, no increase this week. The possibility of an increase however, is much more likely than not.”


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Group researcher/Member
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Update #2

Prices slightly up for this week
Increase in prices renews concerns over added fuel surcharges

Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, June 02, 2009- Most fuel prices will probably increase on Thursday but that’s not the big worry. The creep up in all fuel product prices is renewing concerns that some companies may be forced to consider the likelihood of adding fuel surcharges to account for the latest increases in prices.

Marine Atlantic costs to go up?
George Murphy, group researcher for the Consumer Group for Fair Gas prices says that businesses operating within the province should be concerned that there is a possibility that some costs will be increased because of the extra costs for fuel in recent weeks, leading to the possibility of added fuel surcharges again.

“We’re keeping an eye to Marine Atlantic who will be making the decision on added fuel surcharges later this month. The first time they did that back in 2007; prices for most marine type fuels were averaging close to 35 cents a litre when a fuel surcharge of two per cent was applied to passenger fares. As of the first of June, 2009 those numbers exceed that of 2007 by almost 2.5 cents a litre, creeping upwards in recent weeks and showing no signs of abatement. The province should immediately be concerned about any addition to prices crossing the Gulf and should be taking steps to ensure these costs are not going to be passed down to the consumer or to businesses in the province. We also have a very important tourism season to protect,” said Murphy.

“Our federal representatives should press the government in Ottawa to help the Department of Transport and the minister responsible, John Baird, absorb these added costs to Marine Atlantic. If they can step in to the automotive industry with financial assistance, they can help Marine Atlantic absorb the additional costs of marine fuels. We’re seeing the numbers increase and we still have time to deal with anything that is forth-coming provided the federal government is receptive to protecting the province from added increases to rates.”

On the consumer front
“Consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador can expect to see an added 1.77 cents a litre to heating and stove oils, an added one cent a litre to gasoline prices and 1.9 cents a litre on diesel fuels as a result of this past two weeks market activity. Even though numbers show inventories of crude oil almost 50 million barrels more than the average, prices continue to climb as a result of positive economic news. They may be positive for the provincial treasury but, it’s not so positive for the consumer when we see the removal of disposable income from the consumer’s pocket.”


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Group researcher/Member

Monday, June 01, 2009

Update #1
Price increases coming
I'll be posting more on this tomorrow night when all the data is in, but for now, it ooks like price increases are coming.
Here's what I have so far, thirteen days out of fourteen available days data:
  • Heating/stove oils up by 1.48 a litre.
  • Diesel up by 1.6 a litre, and...
  • Gasoline shows up by close on a penny.

A few notes for this period:

  • Canadian dollar has gained by six cents against its US counterpart.
  • Refiner capacity has increased to 85 per cent from last week's 83.7 per cent.
  • Consumer demand for distillates measured down by 9 per cent from last year.
  • Jet fuel demand down by slightly better than nine also.
  • Demand for gasoline is 4/10ths of a per cent below last years levels.
  • Crude stocks are almost 50 millionbarrels more than last year for the same timeframe.

More tomorrow like I say...