Pump prices rise and planned action by refinery workers prompt fears of shortages.

Petrol and diesel prices are continuing to hit record highs.

Soaring prices on the world oil market, with prices touching $115 a barrel have been made worse by production shortages at European refineries caused by maintenance problems.

Meanwhile, the Government has urged drivers not to panic ahead of a planned 48-hour strike by refinery workers at Grangemouth, Scotland.

The site processes 10% of the UK’s fuel but business minister John Hutton has appealed for calm, saying problems are likely only if everyone rushes to the pumps to fill up.

The AA reports that fuel prices nationally have risen in a month by 1.3p per litre for unleaded to average £1.08.1, bringing the £5 petrol gallon ever closer. And the gap between diesel and petrol has widened. Diesel prices have jumped by 3.1p per litre to £1.17.4, meaning that the £5 gallon has been reached.

The difference in cost between the two fuels across the country now averages 9.3p per litre, an increase of 1.8p within a month.

Industry watchers say this is because increased demand for diesel has pushed up production costs.

The biggest chunk of whatever we pay for fuel gs direct to the Treasury: 62% of the cost of unleaded is tax, and 58.4% of diesel.

However, elsewhere in Europe, diesel and petrol prices are up and down.

In Austria, for example, the two fuels are exactly as dear as one another, while in Belgium and Holland, diesel is much cheaper than petrol. And while prices have risen throughout Europe, the UK has the second highest diesel prices, while unleaded petrol ranks 11th dearest.

Norwegians pay the most for their fuel: the equivalent of £1.27.5 per litre for unleaded and £1.29.3 for diesel.

By contrast, drivers in the United States still enjoy some of the cheapest fuel anywhere. They pay just 45p per litre for unleaded and 54.3p for diesel.

Regionally, diesel and unleaded prices range up and down by up to 2p per litre. Yorkshire and Humberside have the cheapest fuel, while prices are generally highest in London and the South-east, although Wales has the dearest diesel.