Average petrol prices in the UK set a new record this week at 142.48p a litre, and 147.88p a litre for diesel.
The AA Fuel Price Report said that this was after a month of falling oil prices failing to be reflected in wholesale prices across northern Europe.
The AA said: ‘After last week’s brief halt in the 14-week rise in pump prices, the UK’s average cost of petrol has returned to record levels, just five-hundredths of a penny off the record set last week.
‘Petrol has risen 10.23p a litre and diesel 7.32p since pump prices started their relentless climb at the start of the year, adding £21.72 to the monthly petrol cost of a two-car family.
‘In the past month alone, petrol has gone up 3.98p a litre and diesel 2.43p. A year ago, petrol cost 135.29p a litre and diesel 141.60p.
‘Since mid-March, the oil price has tumbled more than four per cent yet NW Europe wholesale petrol has remained above the $1,200-a-tonne benchmark that set record pump prices in July 2008 and May 2011 – the pound being significantly stronger on those previous occasions.
‘In July 2008, Brent crude oil peaked at $147 a barrel while, in May 2011 and this year, oil peaked at $125-$126, which is a 14% reduction in the raw material cost.’
The motoring organisation added: ‘Panic-buying in response to the threat of a tanker drivers’ strike at the end of March placed an intolerable strain on many families, who felt the need to fill their tanks to the brim when they would normally buy far smaller amounts.
‘A typical 50-litre petrol refill now costs £71.24, which is £5.12 more than at the start of the year.
‘It is also as much as a family with two adults and children spends on food and non-alcoholic drink each week, according to government statistics.’
The AA’s president, Edmund King, said: ‘This panic buying masked a more persistent threat further up the fuel chain.’
He continued: ‘Speculator-driven oil prices have crashed petrol demand, down 20% on pre-credit crunch levels in the UK and back to 2001 levels in January in the USA, resulting in refinery closures on both sides of the Atlantic.
‘Now stock market speculators are gambling on a “tight” wholesale gasoline market they helped to create.
‘This is despite gasoline inventories in North West Europe being more than 8% bigger than this time last year and pump prices in the US falling.
‘With both the International Energy Agency and OPEC saying last week that the global oil market is “well-supplied”, the pressure to maintain petrol wholesale prices at or just below record levels and kill even more consumer demand is absurd and incomprehensible.
‘To help the 35 million UK drivers, the government should address the current destructive tendencies in the oil and road fuel markets. Greater transparency would be a good start.’