Oil prices on both sides of the Atlantic have started to ease as producers in the Gulf of Mexico resumed output after the shut-downs caused by Hurricane Katrina.
But at service stations across Europe pump prices are putting the pinch on drivers and the European Union has started talks with major oil companies about increasing their refining capacity.
The average price for unleaded petrol in the euro zone has reached 1.20 euro a litre.
In Britain it has passed the one pound a litre mark for the first time in places, that is 1.53 euro. In the US drivers are facing unheard of prices of 64 euro cents a litre.
EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the region’s finance ministers will discuss the economic impact at an informal meeting later this week: “The present very high oil prices are of growing concern to the Commission due to their impact on the welfare of EU citizens and because of their effect on economic growth. So the Commission has, for some time, been pursuing a series of measures to address the underlying causes of these price increases and enable the EU to tackle its consequences.”
The EU’s plan includes moves to reduce demand for energy, to encourage a move to alternative energy sources, and to push for greater transparency and predictability of oil markets. Piebalgs did not give details of how oil companies would be encouraged to increase their refining capacity.
The commissioner also said he did not expect oil prices to rise much further in the short term.