Woman getting gas.

COLUMN: The cost of a 50-litre purchase

The price depends on what one is buying

A rapid rise in gasoline prices over the last few weeks has had some motorists fuming.

Before the recent price hikes, drivers were paying around $1.50 a litre in the British Columbia interior. Now, the prices are closer to $2 a litre here in Summerland. It’s a bit cheaper in the Salmon Arm area, but more expensive in Vancouver.

At present, the price of regular unleaded gasoline here in Summerland is $1.989 a litre. A 50-litre fill will cost me $99.45. This is a drop from a few days earlier, when the price at the pump had reached $2.149 a litre.

The price of gas now is four times as high as it was when I moved to Summerland in 1994, and more than 12 times as high as prices I remember when I was growing up.

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Today’s gas prices are high enough to have me thinking carefully every time I start the car. But other products are a lot more expensive than gasoline, and those prices don’t lead to the same level of anxiety and outrage as high gas prices.

Milk is a staple in many households and at present, a two-litre container of milk is $4.49, or $2.245 a litre. Filling a 50-litre tank with milk would set me back $112.25. Alternatives, such as soy milk, tend to cost significantly more than cow’s milk.

A 2.63-litre container of orange juice is $7.99 here, which works out to $3.038 a litre. Purchasing 50 litres of orange juice would cost $151.90.

If I want some mouthwash, a 500-millilitre bottle would cost $3.49, which works out to $6.98 a litre. Filling up with 50 litres of mouthwash comes to $349.

If I stop at a coffee shop and order a large 20-ounce coffee, the price translates to $5.644 a litre, or $282.20 for a 50-litre tank.

High-efficiency liquid laundry detergent costs $11.99 for a 1.36-litre bottle. This is $8.816 per litre, or $440.80 for 50 litres.

Paint is a lot more expensive than gasoline. A 3.64-litre can of interior acrylic latex paint is on sale for $42.47, or $11.668 a litre. This works out to $583.40 for 50 litres.

Perfume can be quite costly, and one sale price I saw was $19.95 for a 75-millilitre bottle. That’s $266.533 a litre, or $13,326.65 to fill a 50-litre tank with this perfume. I’m glad my car doesn’t run on perfume.

It’s not a fair comparison to equate gasoline with milk, orange juice, a cup of coffee, house paint or perfume. Few customers would buy 50 litres of milk every couple of weeks, and buying 50 litres of interior house paint is excessive, unless someone is taking on a large project.

I’ve never seen someone leave a store with 50 litres of mouthwash, or order 50 litres of freshly brewed coffee from their favourite coffee shops.

At the same time, gas stations display their pump prices, but the prices of other products are not displayed in the same way. Because of large signs showing the cost of gasoline, any change in gas prices will attract a lot of attention.

Rising gas prices are one indicator of the cost of living, but fuel is not the only item to watch. The cost of groceries and the cost of housing have a much more tangible effect. Prices of commonly used consumer goods are also an important indicator of the cost of living.

It’s possible to cut back fuel consumption by trip planning, carpooling, walking, cycling or working from home, but people need to eat and have places to live.

The rising price of gasoline has captured the attention of many motorists, but it’s not the only price to watch.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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