Pricey fumes on the road to higher costs

Gary MacDougall
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Gas prices

I finally hit the 80 mark this week. Before anyone thinks I’m faking the photograph that accompanies this column, I’m not talking about years, rather cold hard cash.

When I hit the 80 mark I was surprised, just as I was the first time I was able to pour $70 worth of gas into my car’s tank, and before that $60. Heck, there was a time $20 was a surprise.

Well, you get the picture. Over my lifetime I have had a lot of revelations at the gas pumps and none of them pleasant.

Is it just me, or is it the dark side of my mind, but gas prices always seem to rise in the summer months when, hmm, more motorists are on the road, making longer trips and burning more gas.

Motorists on Prince Edward Island are presently paying a minimum of $1.38.6 cents per litre at the self-serve pumps. Without inhaling any of those pricey fumes, lets see how they stack up against our recent history.

On this same date a year ago, the price was $1.29.2. In 2012, it was $1.13.2.

Seven years ago in 2007 the price was $1.05.4. Flip back 14 years to 2000 and it was $0.68.0. And if you really want to get giddy, try dreaming about the July 12, 1990 price which was $0.58.3.

My head is neither big enough, nor this column long enough, to determine whether our pricing system is fair. I will leave that to more learned minds. All I can say is it is legal and based on the principles of the free enterprise system. That, of course, means those who have something of value are entitled to receive in return the absolutely best price possible, regardless of what that price does to the rest of society. Mother Teresa would not be pleased, but she’s not in power.

But before we blame all of society’s ills on the petroleum industry and the rising price of gas and oil, we need to look around at the fact that the cost of everything, including newspapers, has increased. For example, this week I paid $20 for a small package of chicken breasts.

Speaking of commodity prices, be it gas or poultry, I have often mused on how much money is made around the world every time the price of gas goes up a couple of cents — not a dollar or two, but a couple of cents. The figure would be mindbodgling. P.E.I.’s obscene debtload would be easily erased if we could get our hands on that cash.

Today’s gasoline prices are a far cry from those I first encountered. At the time, I was with some fellow teenagers and we wanted desperately to get to a nearby provincial park. One of my pals had access to his father’s car but it came with a price — we had to put gas in it.

As I recall, there were at least four of us and all we could scrape up was 32 cents. But, surprisingly, in my younger days 32 cents worth of gasoline was enough to move the gas gauge and take us to the park and back. I wouldn’t want to set out on that trip today.

Maybe what we should have done is what is now called “hypermiling”. It’s a term for energy-efficient driving, which in turn results in improved fuel economy in vehicles. There are many tips to help with hypermiling, including coasting down hills or making sure your tire pressure is correct.

But back in the 1960s you didn’t turn off your car on purpose. In many cases, getting the car to turn on was a challenge. The challenge nowadays is finding the money to turn your vehicle on and keep it running.


Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at; or on

Organizations: The Guardian

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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