Why the price of gas is going up despite Canada not importing Russian oil

Canada is experiencing a major spike in gas prices related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, despite the fact that Canada imports little oil from Moscow.

Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world and relies on Canadian companies to refine most of its own crude oil. But with Canadians consuming tens of billions of litres of oil each year, Canada also imports crude oil from other countries to meet demand.

More than 77 per cent of Canada’s total crude oil imports in 2020 came from the United States. In 2020, Canada didn’t import any crude oil from the Russian Federation, and imported three per cent of its total crude oil from Russia in 2019.

Despite this, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday a ban on Russian crude oil imports in a mostly symbolic gesture. The Russian oil ban applies only to crude oil for now, but the government is looking at oil derivative products next, a government source told The Canadian Press.

Russia has a vast tap of natural resources including oil and gas, but some foreign buyers are afraid of purchasing any for fear of getting caught up in financial sanctions.

“Cargoes have already been rejected by European refiners in the market, because people are afraid sanctions might be coming, and so they don’t want to be caught with some cargo they can’t resell,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, a research professor and managing director of the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University, told the Associated Press.

With Moscow’s product not moving on the international market, the already small global supply of oil is even smaller, meaning Canada is now competing for oil in an ever-more competitive market.

“We’re emerging from COVID with a likely pent-up demand that is going to aggravate that situation,” Canadians for Affordable Energy president Dan McTeague told CTV News Wednesday. “Then along comes Vladimir Putin using the vulnerability of Europe and the fact that they require his oil and gas … energy prices have now become the global concern.”

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters on Parliament Hill Wednesday that he has asked the Competition Bureau to keep an eye on gas prices, noting that he has spoken to companies about boosting domestic production to counteract any possible shortages.

Canadians aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch as gas prices continue to climb. Russia provides about 40 per cent of the European Union’s natural gas, driving up the cost across the bloc.

In addition to Canada, OPEC is planning to gradually increase oil production to compensate for the global shortage, which was already set into motion prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because of the already short supply of oil. But OPEC has only moderately increased its output, which is likely going to prolong the higher prices of oil and gas.

With files from Nicole Bogart, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.

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