Gas shortages raise questions

An entire province facing gas shortages for as much as a week is yet another reminder that when things are left to the markets, we have no control over how fuel and other commodities are supplied to us. And when there are shortages of commodities we depend on, we can suddenly be very vulnerable.

In Nova Scotia, the late arrival of two tankers in August resulted in gas shortages in many parts of the province.  Earlier that month there were gas shortages in Thunder Bay, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

With commodities like gasoline there is a built-in conflict between what’s good for the corporations selling it and what’s good for the public. For oil companies, large storage facilities are expensive, and when there are shortages, they are often able to increase prices. The public interest, on the other hand, is best served by stable prices and having reserves on hand to minimize the risk of shortages.