PETROL prices are set to smash through the €1.50 barrier in coming weeks.
A survey by the Irish Independent has revealed that prices at the pumps were almost €1.48 at some stations.
However, the Department of Finance yesterday ruled out any tax reductions on fuel, despite record high prices.
In contrast British Prime Minister David Cameron promised this week to look at reducing duty on petrol to aid the wider economy in the UK.
But a Department of Finance spokeswoman said there was no plan to review Irish fuel excise rates.
"The changes on excise were introduced in the Budget in December and it's not under review (again), it's not being looked at," she said.
The Irish Independent survey found a top price of €1.479 at a Limerick station -- although the AA said it had heard of prices of €1.49 in the same county.
Prices had leapt by up to 4c a litre at some stations when compared with this paper's survey a month ago.
The website pumps.ie, which monitors fuel prices, predicted that prices in Ireland could reach €1.50. The cost of oil -- which reached US$98.50 (€74.50) a barrel for Brent Crude yesterday -- is at its highest in a year.
And when the weak euro exchange rate is factored in, the cost of fuel is at a level not seen since 2008.
"This means further increases at the pumps with refinery prices currently at 53c for petrol and 56c for diesel. Add in the duties and VAT and we're going to be knocking on the door of €1.50," the website said.
Its official January forecast added that diesel prices would come close to €1.40 a litre, while home heating oil would sail past €800 for 1,000 litres.
The Consumers' Association of Ireland said drivers were being hit with steep increases at a time of cuts in pay and social welfare.
"It is a very serious situation when so many people are dependent on their cars to get to work, particularly in rural areas, and the Government should re-examine some of the levies to make fuel affordable," said vice-chairman Michael Kilcoyne.
AA Ireland policy director Conor Faughnan said he had heard of a number of garages charging €1.49 for petrol, particularly in the Limerick area, and that some would certainly hit €1.50 in the next two weeks.
This was on top of an average 9c price hike in December which had already brought prices to an unprecedented high of €1.401 a litre on average.
For the average family car doing 12,000 miles a year, a difference of 5c a litre would amount to €7.50 a month, or €90 a year.