May 7 2004. 'The rising price of crude oil is pushing up fuel prices, so petrol retailers cannot be blamed for price rises at the pumps,' said Ray Holloway, independent garage and fuel director for the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), commenting on fuel prices today (Thursday 6 May 2004).

Brent crude closed last night in London at a thirteen year high of around $37 per barrel. Although this will not have any immediate effect on petrol and diesel prices, if this crude oil price is maintained prices could rise at the pumps.

Holloway explains: 'The local forecourt is at the end of a very long chain, and petrol retailers do not have the kind of influence that can halt an increase in the price of crude oil. However, oil producers and international oil companies do have the ability to try and influence prices, although even they cannot control it fully.'

He continues: 'A number of factors are pushing up crude oil prices, but the key cause is the weak state of the US Dollar. It was this that led to OPEC making a decision in February to cut production quotas from 1 April 2004.'

'Europe is likely to pay higher fuel prices right through the summer because of diesel stock problems in Europe, general stock problems in the USA, and possibly because of the value of the recovering US Dollar.

Holloway adds: 'It will be well towards September before the pressure finally lifts, just in time for the Chancellor to add a further 2 - 3 pence more on 1 September, as foretold in the Budget.'