The average price per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Cayman fell another six cents overall last week, while corresponding U.S. retail prices increased by more than 13 cents per gallon as the price of crude oil rose above $50 per barrel.
The average price on Grand Cayman on Feb. 5 dropped to $4.32 per gallon of regular unleaded self-serve gasoline, the lowest price on island in more than a year.
However, prices went up about two cents per gallon at a few stations, including Maedac Rubis and Red Bay Esso – compared to the last time they were measured on Jan. 20.
At a number of other Grand Cayman stations, including the H&B on Crewe Road, the Seven Mile Beach Esso, the Shedden Road Rubis and Jose’s Rubis, prices dropped between 5 cents per gallon and 40 cents per gallon during the same period.
Meanwhile, U.S. retail prices increased for the second straight week, going from a national average of US$2.05 per gallon in late January to US$2.18 per gallon. Against this backdrop, Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke last week about the Progressive-led government’s intention to place greater regulations on fuel prices in the future.
Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts has previously spoken of government’s efforts to bring in a third fuel provider to increase competition, but Mr. McLaughlin’s comments went beyond that proposal.
“We also want the two existing fuel companies to become more transparent to help ensure that residents are paying a fair price for fuel while allowing the oil companies an equitable profit,” the premier said Thursday during his annual State of the Nation address at the Fidelity Economic Outlook conference.
“We are also moving to create a public utilities commission which will have as part of its remit the regulation of the fuel sector,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We are also prepared to make other legislative changes, if necessary, to protect consumers.”
The local fuel companies have warned Cayman off the establishment of government-mandated price controls for petroleum, which they said could end with Cayman Islands residents paying more to fill up their cars and air condition their homes.
“In a regulated market, the regulator [government] must guarantee a reasonable return to the regulated industry,” said Alan Neesome of Sol Petroleum, after being asked about regulatory issues last month. “Sol shares the government’s objective of making fuels available at competitive prices, and the current free market in Grand Cayman is undoubtedly accomplishing this objective.
“Pump pricing here overall [has] decreased substantially, in line with international pricing, whereas prices in other jurisdictions in our region, especially those with regulations, are in many cases higher when compared to the equivalent price per imperial gallon for the same product.”
Premier McLaughlin may find an unlikely political ally in an effort to place greater regulations on the local petroleum market: Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush.
Mr. Bush has filed a private members motion in the Legislative Assembly 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 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
“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.”