MOTORISTS will spend more than €400 extra just to keep their car tanked up this year, as petrol prices continue to climb.
The average family will be forced to pay more than €2,730 for petrol this year if prices stay at their record high, compared with €2,304 last year.
The cost of petrol has continued to soar in the last week, with prices generally around €1.52 a litre but climbing as high as €1.55, a survey by the Irish Independent has found.
The high prices could be compounded by further hikes in road tax and carbon tax, which are expected to hit drivers in the next Budget. The anticipated increase in the taxes has led to calls for the Government to reduce its fuel bills.
Around 57pc of the cost of a litre of fuel goes to the Government in taxes -- in the form of excise duty, VAT and carbon tax -- accounting for 18 cent to 20 cent of the increases seen by drivers at the pumps in the last year.
Automobile Association (AA) spokesman Conor Faughnan said that while Ireland was powerless to influence international oil prices, the Government should cut its tax take from fuel.
"It is a lose-lose situation for everyone at the moment, fuel prices have become unaffordably high and there is a strong business case for cutting tax to stimulate demand," Mr Faughnan said.
The Irish Petrol Retailers Association said fuel sales were down between 6pc and 10pc at the 350 filling stations they represented, thanks to motorists cutting back on journeys and an increase in fuel smuggling.
There has been a slight dip this week in oil prices as markets responded favourably to news of Osama Bin Laden's death, but world oil prices appear to be on an upward trajectory.
The price of Brent Crude fell by more than a dollar to $123.79 (€83) a barrel yesterday, but experts believe that conflict in Libya, unrest in the Middle East, a shaky euro and the threat of terror reprisals all point to continued volatility around a high base price.
"Osama or no Osama there's every reason to believe world oil prices will get worse," said Mr Faughnan, citing increasing demand in China as the main driver of increases.
"Prices have been increasing steadily since last October and November -- there is no sign of that abating."
At the current high price of more than €1.52 a litre, the average family is paying €228 a month to fill up their car, which, if kept up all year, will mean a petrol bill of over €2,730.
That means their petrol bill for 2011 will cost them a massive €430 more than last year, when prices averaged around €1.28 a litre, and €1,000 more than two years ago, when fuel prices fell to under a euro.
This is based on AA figures, which show the average family car does more than 19,000km a year, requiring 150 litres of fuel a month, or 1,800 litres a year.
Last month's AA survey showed petrol prices averaging €1.507 per litre; prices have continued to increase since then.
Figures from fuel supplier Maxol show their wholesale petrol prices have risen by more than 2 cent in the last 10 days .
Fuel comparison website www.pumps.ie yesterday put the average price nationwide at €1.529 a litre for petrol.
Motoring: page 52