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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prices should drop this Thursday
Winter heating forecast!

Media release


Conception Bay South, NL, September 22, 2009- Consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador can expect to see a slight downwards adjustment to prices this coming Thursday. That’s when the Public Utilities Board moves to set prices again.

George Murphy, group researcher for the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices expects to see numbers for all fuels to drop slightly in the wake of the fluctuation in oil prices and its related commodities over the last two weeks. “I expect heating and stove oils to drop by 97/100ths of a cent, diesel to drop by 1.2 cents a litre and gasoline to drop by two cents per litre. It may not be a lot but it does signify both stagnation in the increase in oil prices and a steadying out in oil’s refined commodities. Having said that, we also haven’t witnessed any appreciable increase in world demand and that has helped keep prices between $68 and $72 a barrel US.

Marine Atlantic to keep fuel surcharge in place?
“There has been no drop in marine type diesel fuels that would show in the consumer favour. I expect that Marine Atlantic will make no moves in reducing their fuel surcharge. As a matter of fact, residual fuel oil prices have increased in price since the last time the company placed fuel surcharges on Marine Atlantic rates so; it wouldn’t surprise me to see them act in placing an increase to rates this week coming when they look at the numbers for the last quarter.

Winter heating forecast is in
“Consumers can expect some consolation that we will not be seeing prices hit $1.20 a litre as we did a short time ago. This winter looks somewhat better than in 2007 as numbers are showing a projected November number of close to 70 cents per litre with stove oils reaching 72 cents. I expect winter heating oil prices to peak at close to 80 cents in February of 2010 before we see a decline with the advent of spring weather breaking in the US northeast. November of 2007 showed heating oils at 82.4 cents while stove oils hit 84 cents. It was early in 2008 that we were witness to the skyrocketing price of heating oil until the price of oil collapsed later in July of that year when oil prices hit $147 US a barrel. January 2008 heating oil prices hit almost $1.05 a litre as a result of demand on jet fuel along with a high jet fuel price.

Reasons for heating oil being a little cheaper this year
“There are several reasons why heating oil will be slightly cheaper this year. Chief among them are factors such as an elevated Canadian dollar that is helping to keep the price down, a drop in demand compared to 2007 and elevated inventories as compared to that year. That same year, we weren’t dealing with a faltering economy as we are now, so prices for any distillate group fuel was increased from 2006 and that showed at the fuel truck level. This year, for example with jet fuel, which is a component of the winter heating blend in the province, with demand down, I’m expecting to see a slight retreat in the heating oil price overall when the PUB sets prices the first week of November when jet fuel enters the mix.

“Crude oil and distillate inventories are higher than normal for this time of the year. Usually, we see some tightness in inventories but distillates, for example, are almost 40 million barrels more than what they were for the same time frame last year. There’s going to have to be some heavy economic activity happen or an increase in demand if Big Oil is hoping on increasing the price of some distillate product.

“Market conditions could change things, but barring any unforeseen circumstances like a drop in the dollar, an increase in oil prices spurred on by an improving economy, the possibility of OPEC cuts or a slack demand for the product because of warmer than usual winter weather, I am expecting not too much fluctuation in price overall. If however, we see an increase in oil prices such as was witnessed later that winter of 2007 then the game is up and you can be assured that consumers will suffer as a result. The price that is projected now is still unaffordable by most people so government will again have to step in and help people out with rebate-type programming.”

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For more information, contact:

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

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