Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fuel shortage

I took this picture of our corner gas station this past Thursday afternoon. Gas appears to be a real bargain in our neighbourhood, but in reality, many stations are out of gas and have had to close.
On February 15, 2007, there was a fire at an Imperial Oil refinery near Hamilton, Ontario, and the oil supply was compromised. Esso stations began running out of fuel, and the shortage spread to other dealers. Smaller stations were closed and larger stations started limiting customers to 70 litres of gas per fill up, hardly enough for a Hummer.
Today, the oil refinery is back to 75% production, but these stations have not reopened. Gas prices have risen from around 82 cents a litre to $1.07 a litre in the past two weeks.
In this March 9, 2007 article from the Toronto Globe and Mail which I have excerpted here, we see we should not have been surprised that one fire could disrupt our supply so significantly.

Ontario was alerted to 'hiccup' in fuel supply, group says

Petroleum marketers met ministry in 2006

TORONTO -- The Ontario government was warned that the province was facing the spectre of a fuel shortage last year, 13 months before many gas stations temporarily shut down last week after running out of supplies.

The head of an industry association that represents fuel marketers made a presentation to officials in the Ministry of Energy on Feb. 3, 2006, telling them that there was a real possibility the province could end up without enough gasoline and diesel fuel to meet growing demand.

"We were just flabbergasted that nothing came out of it," Jane Savage, chief executive officer of the Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, said in an interview yesterday. She said the current gasoline shortage in Ontario that has pushed up prices and forced dozens of gas stations, most of them in the Greater Toronto Area, to strategically close in order to keep others open, shows how precarious the situation has become.

"One hiccup in the supply network and we're in trouble and that's getting worse and worse as demand increases," she said...

It is interesting to read the editorials and comments from people who accuse the oil companies of creating a crisis so gas prices can be inflated. Blame is being circulated in many sectors of government and industry. The owner of this little gas station is not benefiting from the shortage as cars drive to the Sunoco station across the road to fill up their cars.

As high energy consumers in North America, we may be much closer to the edge of an energy crisis than we realize. Yet we are reluctant to change our lifestyles and make changes that may need to be forced on us in the future. The daughter of one of my patients visited Canada from Switzerland recently. As a middle aged woman, she had a slim and fit figure and appeared so healthy. She commented that in her area, people walked everywhere. No one hopped into a car to go to the local store. Gas prices are up to three times higher in Europe than in North America. Walking, biking and public transit are a way of life in much of Europe and other parts of the world.

CNN has a recent list of the 10 greenest cars available in 2007. Every one of them is from an Asian manufacturer. Three versions of the Honda Civic make the list. It is not surprising that the big North American auto makers are facing financial problems.

Time will tell if our fuel prices will start to fall again. I am not planning to take any long drives today and am saving my fuel for really necessary trips. I need a vehicle for my community job. I also love going for a drive on the weekend to explore some new and interesting area. As soon as the snow is gone I will be pumping up the bicycle tires and hitting the trails on two wheels instead of four.

Check out Burning Silo today for the latest installment of Good Planets are Hard to Find to view some beautiful pictures of our natural world.


  1. You touch on one of my biggest gripes with our foolish over-use of natural resources. I HATE SUVs that are gas guzzlers. I know there are some larger vehicles that are somewhat conserving.
    I am so upset that in the US we complain about high gas prices, then climb into our gas guzzlers and drive to places we could/should walk.
    It just drives me nuts.
    Thanks for reminding us of the impact of such problems in places outside the US.

  2. Ruth, I admit it - I drive an SUV but it does get pretty decent mpg and provided us a lot of comfort and room during our drives up and down the east coast for several years. We're going to buy something smaller this summer. Those people who drive hummers must be very wealthy and if they ever complain about gas prices, they should just PARK IT.

    Our problems with fuel are all due to political greed. I don't even want to get started on this one.

  3. KGMom- Our cities, especially the suburbs, are often not designed for walking and convenient shopping. It is too easy to hop in the car as our time is at a premium. I don't know how high prices will go before behaviours change.

    Mary- My husband has driven a large 8 cylinder gas guzzler for years, for comfort and for pulling a boat. His current SUV is a company vehicle. I drive a van that is more economical, and I like the security and visibility of a higher vehicle. I am looking at more economical vehicles, but taking a long road trip in a sub compact is not very comfortable.

  4. Anonymous1:28 pm GMT-4

    Hi- My husband is a native Torontonian and we are up there ( from southern NY) a couple fo times a year, minumum. I listen to Toronto radio on the computer ( to keep up on what's going on there) so i heard about the gas "shortage".... but what I wasn't prepared for was the cost of my usual car rental! We are coming up the last week of March and I did the car rental reservation last night.... it has SKYROCKETED! I'm going to pay about double what I usually pay for a week's rental. and THEN paying for ( finding...?) gasoline! Whew!

  5. Hi Sharon,
    Things are more expensive here due to our higher taxes,(but the CDN dollar is down a little!)The station in the picture was open today (Mar 12). The gas prices have not dropped though. Today gas was $1.06.9 per litre.
    Hope your trip here is a good one and I will do my best to see that it warms up by the end of March. ;)


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