DOING SOME DIGGING The Pumped-up Price for Petrol

Summer is coming and not only the temperature is rising. So are the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel. With the av...


Summer is coming and not only the temperature is rising. So are the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel. With the average price of regular gas at 90.4 cents/litre across Canada, and every indication is that it will continue to go up, no wonder there is a corresponding rise in the blood pressure of many motorists.

As individuals we do what we can to combat the added expense. My small sport utility is still getting the same great mileage it did when it was new 14 years ago. It frequently sits in the driveway for days on end, saving even more money. My husband is not so lucky. His company car is a large SUV that can make a 60-litre tank of gas disappear in mere hours. Yes, his employer reimburses him for filling up, but gas hogs such as his vehicle help drive up prices at the pump.

Spare a thought for Canadian mineral producers who operate fleets of heavy equipment. It takes a lot of diesel fuel to keep a 300-tonne haul truck on the pit ramp. The fuelling needs of underground trucks and load-haul-dumpers add up to considerable expense, too. Many remote mines rely on petroleum to generate their electricity. They have no choice but to pay what is demanded for fuel. Accountants are no doubt figuring out how much rising fuel prices add to the cost of producing an ounce of gold or shipping a tonne of concentrate to the smelter.

There are many energy-saving technologies making their way into the consumer transportation market: hydrogen-powered cars, electric cars, hybrid gas/electric cars, alternative fuels and so on. But news of similar innovations for industrial fleets is difficult to find. Manufacturers of diesel engines are improving efficiency, but their efforts are largely confined to conventional technologies. If they are working with alternate fuels or radical changes in engine design, they are not making it known to the public.

The demand for petroleum products in North America will never go away. Canadians are fortunate to have the oil sands containing the equivalent of billions (some say trillions) of barrels of crude oil. Maybe somebody will invent an engine for haul trucks that runs on bitumen.


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