Lawmakers to debate gas price motion

The subject of greater regulation of gas prices in the Cayman Islands will come before the Legislative Assembly this year in one form or another.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush filed a private members motion Monday asking government to consider, at the very least, more specific reporting requirements for the islands’ two major fuel distributors on the “actual costs” of shipments to the territory.

Mr. Bush said Wednesday that he believes even $4 per gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline would be too high at the moment, but he did not state a specific retail price he believed was reasonable The current prices on Grand Cayman are averaging around $4.80 to $4.90 per gallon.

“There should be no need for debate on this matter as each and every citizen is very curious as to why our gasoline/fuel prices consistently move upward within weeks of any global price increase, but never can follow a downward trend on global fuel,” he said.

The private members motion also seeks to expand the authority of the Cayman Islands Petroleum Inspectorate to include subpoena powers – to “ensure market prices are passed on to the general public.”

The gap between U.S. and Cayman Islands retail gasoline prices has widened between last summer – when worldwide prices were at their peak – and now, because of a precipitous drop in U.S. retail prices since June.

Cayman’s retail fuel rates have fallen steadily since October 2014, but not at the same rate as in the U.S.

In June 2014, the U.S. per gallon unleaded average price was US$3.67 [CI$3.08 using .84 as conversion rate]; the Cayman Islands price per gallon was averaging around CI$5.60 at the time. As of Jan. 5, comparative prices were US$2.19 average [CI$1.84], versus average price in Cayman of CI$4.89.

The price difference at the pump [shown in CI] at the time retail prices had reached their peak in the U.S. was $2.52 per gallon. The difference this month, with the worldwide plummet in oil prices factored in, is $3.06 per gallon.

Mr. Bush stopped short of backing price control legislation, stating that is a matter for the ruling government to decide. However, the issue has at least been broached by Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts in recent days with regard to local fuel prices.

Mr. Tibbetts, who oversees the petroleum inspectorate as part of his ministry, said last week that international fuel prices indicate Cayman’s gas stations still have plenty of room to cut prices.

“There is a small task force doing some investigation, and we intend to be meeting with both oil companies [Sol and Rubis] very early in the new year with a view to having some positive discussions about [pricing],” Mr. Tibbetts said. “The government is firmly of the view that the companies could be making a fair markup and the price still would be noticeably lower.

“Depending on the outcome of those discussions, it is the government’s view that, if necessary, appropriate legislation will be put in place,” he said.

The minister said he was meeting with Sol and Rubis officials this week regarding gas prices, but the outcome of those private meetings was not known at press time.

Mr. Tibbetts’s former ministry under the People’s Progressive Movement government of 2005-2009 had raised the issue of price control legislation for retail gas prices.

Last summer, Mr. Tibbetts spoke to the Cayman Compass about an agreement between government and Texas-based Navasota Energy stating that Navasota could be brought in as a consultant to negotiate with the oil companies regarding the potential for a new fuel supply terminal in the eastern districts of Grand Cayman.

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