Northern Ireland motorists could soon see the cost of fuel surge to unprecedented levels.
The bad news comes after oil prices hit an 18-month high of almost $86 a barrel — the dearest since the peak of the financial crisis in October 2008.
Northern Ireland drivers were paying on average 116.5p a litre for petrol mid-March, making it the most expensive location in the UK to fill up bar London.
Similarly, filling stations here last month recorded the highest average UK diesel price of 117.9p a litre, according to the AA.
By yesterday, however, the Easter holidays had seen further spikes and many garages were already charging more than £1.20 for both fuels.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, AA spokesman Luke Bosdet predicted more grim news for beleaguered motorists.
“Crude oil stood below $70 a barrel in early February, but has risen steadily amid recovery hopes for the US economy,” he said.
“That rise is likely to spark more pain at the pump for UK drivers already hit by higher prices, due to the weaker pound pushing up wholesale petrol costs as well as fuel duty hikes from the Government.
“In Northern Ireland, where fuel generally costs around 1p a litre more, many drivers will probably find they need to tighten their belts.”
Statistics from the AA show that a litre of petrol is now 9.6p more expensive than at the start of the year (109.88p).
This is adding £4.80 the cost of a typical 50-litre refill and £20.38 more to the monthly fuel costs of a family with two petrol cars.
In March, before the April 1 fuel duty increase, 67% of 17,480 AA members surveyed said they were cutting back on car use, other expenditure or both. This compares with 61% last November and 66% in November 2008.
Although Chancellor Alistair Darling staggered the introduction of the latest duty rise in last month’s Budget, 1p a litre was added, with a further 1p hike to come in October.