You're right Oliver, I have no knowledge of the petrol market in the UK. Here in the colonies, we see a nasty run up in price every summer during the high demand season, when the refineries say they are doing maintainence and can't keep up with the demand, and then prices always ease after the kids go back to school in September.
The three major run ups I was talking about was the "Energy Crisis #1" which was about 1972-73, prices trippled (from $.25 cents a gallon to $.75) in about a year. This caused a world oil recession, inflation and interest rates around 20%. The savings and loan industry collapsed California foreclosures were setting new records and the government kicked in 300 billion in the form of "Resolution Trust" bonds to bail out the ecconomy. Gasoline didn't "fall back" in price, but it held between $.75 and $.80 cents a gallon until 1979 about 6 years. While inflation continued to push the adjusted price down.
The next big "Energy Crisis #2 came in 1979-80 when the price doubled from about $.75 cents a gallon to $1.40 a gallon. This time with Greenspan at the helm of the federal reserve a national ecconomic crisis was averted and after some quick action, oil prices held steady with gasoline being sold at around $1.50 for the next 20 years. (While adjusting for inflation by the winter of 2002 we were paying about $.40 cents per gallon with adjustment).
Since then, we have seen some pretty steady run-ups in the price of gasoline and crude oil. In the summer of 2005 it jumped from $2.20 to $3.20 a gallon but by winter it was back to $2.20. During the summer of 2006 it repeated the action of 2005.
Last year during the summer it jumped up to $3.40 a gallon, but fell back to $3.00 per gallon by winter.
Right now we are in the middle of another serious run-up in price. The mortgage industry is on the brink of collapse and the Government is considering pumping in billions of dollars to bail out another lending industry. History does indeed repeat its self. Even at today's prices adjusted for inflation, you are paying about the equilivent of $1.50 a gallon based on US earning ability.
Now, I know all this crap doesn't help you pay your gas bill tomorrow on your way to work. However I don't think these conditions will last, and I will predict that gas will be back to about $3.00 per gallon by the end of this year. Let's see if I'm right.
Of course all of this is for the US market. You're right, I don't know what's happening to you in the UK, and your conditions could be much better or much worse depending on the politics, government regulations, and other unintended consequences of politicians acting before they think. (We have an abundance of that on this side of the pond and I would love to send some of them on permanent vacation if you could suggest a location).