(Sept. 15) After two weeks of steady declines, diesel fuel prices shot back up to record levels during the week of Sept. 12.

According to the Department of Energy, the national average price for diesel fuel on Sept. 13 was $1.874 per gallon, only slightly higher than the record $1.87 set in late August, but more than 40 cents higher than the price for the same week in 2003.

The biggest increases were in the Lower Atlantic and Central Atlantic regions. Those areas have been hit hard by hurricanes Charley and Frances in recent weeks, making fuel an even hotter commodity than usual.

Still, the highest prices remained in California, where diesel topped out at $2.131 per gallon on Sept. 13. That’s down slightly from the week before, but still more than 48 cents higher than a year ago.

Meanwhile, with Hurricane Ivan bearing down on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, crude oil prices were on the rise again, up to $44.50 per barrel on Sept. 15. While Ivan was not expected to strike the majority of oil production in the area, experts said that any disruption to the market would lead to higher prices.

By Sept. 15, most of the oil rigs had been evacuated, cutting production down slightly in the process.

On Sept. 14, insurgents in Iraq sabotaged a recently repaired oil pipeline in one of Iraq’s northern oilfields, disrupting supplies there. Frequent attacks and repairs to the pipelines have already cost the struggling nation more than $2 billion.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, meeting in Vienna on Sept. 15, said it planned to increase its production quota by 1 million barrels per day later this year, bringing production up to 27 million barrels a day.

Experts, however, say this gesture is largely symbolic, as OPEC has already been exceeding that limit for some time now.

The news did not affect oil prices, which remained high, in part because of increasing demand from China and ongoing turmoil in oil producing regions such as Iraq and Venezuela.