MOTORISTS have been hit at the petrol pumps yet again as world oil prices rose to a two-and-a-half year high yesterday.
A survey by the Irish Independent found further rises in petrol prices as consumers brace themselves for an expected hike in European Central Bank interest rates today.
The cost of a litre of unleaded was more than €1.50 at two-thirds of the stations checked yesterday. A random sample of Dublin filling stations revealed prices of €1.519 and €1.529 at over half those surveyed.
The highest price recorded was €1.599 at an Esso station near Dublin Airport -- though it has been charging this for over a month -- while just up the road a Great Gas station was offering petrol for €1.479
In Cork, Texaco Model Farm Road, Bishopstown, was charging €1.529 a litre for petrol.
In Maxol, Bandon Road, Waterfall, Co Cork, the price was €1.499, while in Co Wexford, Esso on Arklow Rd, Gorey, was charging €1.488 a litre.
Prices have risen by 2c per litre or even more at some stations in the last 10 days.
The Irish Petroleum Industry Association said the variations seen in Irish filling stations were a sign of how healthy competition was.
"It's like selling anything, if a guy down the road is selling it for 2c less, I will have to reduce my prices to compete, the Irish market is extraordinarily competitive and based on very tight margins," a spokesman said.
The price of imported, refined oil and tax were the two biggest factors influencing prices, but consumers got enormous protection against being ripped off by the requirement that all stations make their prices clearly visible from the road, he said.
New figures published by Maxol, which supplies 80 stations here, show that their wholesale price for petrol has risen by 2c per litre in the last week.
However, Maxol chief executive Tom Noonan said they did not set prices at individual filling stations as this was not permitted by company law and was a matter for each operator dep-ending on their own business.
"It certainly does not suit Maxol to have prices as high as they are now, as it depresses demand, particularly in the home-heating sector," he said.
Unfortunately, there is little sign of an end to high oil prices amidst ongoing concerns about potential damage to Libyan production, Mr Noonan said.
The price of Brent crude oil rocketed to over $122 a barrel yesterday, its highest since August 2008. The increase was directly linked to the expectation that the ECB will hike interest rates today.