Global crude oil prices have soared to their highest levels since 2008, heightening pressure on the Government to move to cut excise duty on petrol and diesel.
The price of a barrel of Brent Crude — the European and international benchmark for oil pricing — for delivery in May briefly hit $140 a barrel in early trade on March 7 2022, following comments by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, but later fell again.
European natural gas prices also responded sharply following speculation that the flow of gas from Russia could be curbed, with benchmark Dutch TTF gas futures briefly hitting an all-time high of €345 per megawatt-hour.
Speaking on Sunday, Blinken said Washington was in “active discussions” with European nations about banning Russian oil imports as a further economic penalty against Moscow, although he stopped short of announcing an outright boycott.
Although energy products are exempt from sanctions, European and US companies are already buying less oil from Russia, which is intensifying pressure on the supply of crude from alternative sources.
This is had led to sharp price increases in the fortnight since the invasion with markets also anticipating that Russia could stop supplying oil to Europe in retaliation for sanctions.
While it takes up to eight weeks for increases in wholesale oil prices to trickle down to consumers in the form of higher petrol and diesel costs, prices in Irish forecourts have already risen sharply in the past 12 months as the economy reopened and demand returned.
Petrol and diesel prices rose by almost 30% and 32% in the year to the end of January, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Amid heightened concern about increases in the cost of living in Ireland, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar signalled on Friday that the Government could intervene on costs before the budget in October.