The price of crude oil has fallen 19 per cent in the past two weeks but prices at the gas pump in Ontario have barely budged. Why?

It depends who you ask.

Everyone agrees the two don’t always rise and fall in tandem, at least not in the short term.
But that’s where the agreement ends.

Gas price watcher Dan McTeague says Canada’s highly concentrated, poorly regulated oil industry is able to “tack on” what he calls “extra mystery cents” to the wholesale price of gasoline paid by gas retailers.

“While you’d think Canadian refiners would observe market forces, they don’t have to,” said the Liberal MPP for Pickering-Scarborough East. “That’s why I’m getting a lot of letters from the public.”

In a 16-day period this month, the price per barrel for crude oil plunged 19 per cent, yet the price for gasoline at the pumps in Toronto slipped just five per cent, according to Spencer Knipping, an oil industry analyst with the Ontario Ministry of Energy. The average retail price for a litre of gasoline in Toronto was 97.24 cents yesterday.

Here’s what happened.

The price of crude oil lost ground as investors worried that the debt crisis in Greece could spread to other countries. That would put a crimp in demand.

That sent the price of crude oil down to $69.87 US a barrel, from a high of $86.19 US over the previous two-week period, according to Knipping’s figures.

The wholesale price of gasoline, which trades on the North American market, also fell though it fell 16 per cent in New York but only 5.8 per cent in Toronto, according to Knipping.

Knipping said he couldn’t explain why the Toronto wholesale gasoline market has been “more sluggish” in its response to changes in crude oil.