Lack of competition blamed for high petrol prices
CITY motorists might be enjoying a Christmas present at the bowser, with petrol prices at their lowest in five years, but there are no fuel bargains to be found on the Northern Rivers.
The cost of unleaded petrol has crashed in the capitals, falling to below $1.10 per litre in Sydney and widely predicted to soon hit the magical $1 mark, while hovering around $1.14 in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Behind the price crash is a glut in global oil supply as the world's biggest producers maintain high levels of production in an ongoing price war.
But none of these international events have made a difference to fuel prices here
on the Northern Rivers, where prices have remained near $1.40 a litre.
The region is only a short and straight drive from Brisbane, so freight costs amount to only about 5c a litre, an anonymous retailer said.
So why are we being ripped off?
BP, which has a strong presence across the region, has a policy of not commenting on petrol prices.
But both BP and the other major operator, Caltex, has previously said the higher volumes of fuel sold in big cities, courtesy of their higher populations, contributed heavily to lower prices.
They also pointed to freight and "other costs" that pushed up the price of fuel in the regions.
But Evans Head petrol station owner Doug Behn said there were more diabolical reasons at play.
Mr Behn, a former board member of the now defunct Independent Service Station Association, said the ownership of fuel retailers had become too concentrated in recent years.
They could now afford to extract bigger margins without getting caught out.
The supermarket duopoly's foray into fuel retailing hadn't helped either.
"The only real big independents have been bought out," Mr Behn said.
"There's no competition amongst them.
"The depots are gone, the independents are gone, our service station association is gone.
"The price is so low in the cities that the country people are subsidising them."
And this is one issue where regional motorists are largely ignored amid our city cousins' celebrations.
Last week the Commonwealth Bank revealed figures showing the average Australian household was saving $32 a week on petrol compared to the same time last year - the equivalent of a .25% cut in interest rates.
But we'll be getting none of this, it seems.
Ballina - unleaded 139.4; diesel 142.9.
Casino - unleaded 138.8; diesel 147.8.
Lismore - unleaded 137.1; diesel 139.5.
Tweed Heads south - unleaded 125.9; diesel 142.9.
Sydney - unleaded 114.8; Diesel 137.8.
Prices as at December 25, 2014
The Australian Institute of Petroleum said the metropolitan price crash was due to a slump in crude oil prices of almost 40%, as oil-producing countries continue production and refuse to cut output targets despite a global supply glut of "black gold".
Behind all this is a price war between cheap gas in the United States and oil-producing countries in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Despite this battle for market share, the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, ruled out any chance of cutting production last weekend.
"If they want to cut production they are welcome - we are not going to cut, certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut," Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said.
Another factor contributing to the slide in petrol prices is a reduction in fuel prices in Singapore, the benchmark for Australian prices, where the market is at a five-year low.
Since January 2014, when the national average price of unleaded petrol was $1.58.7, retail prices at the pump have plummeted by 20%.
In December alone, the price of Brent crude fell by 14.7%.