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(From Guardian Unlimited)
Hopes of big cuts in household energy bills faded yesterday as traders drove up UK prices by exporting gas to fill a growing shortage across Europe.
Despite freezing temperatures and rising demand in Britain, traders switched from importing to exporting gas through an interconnector pipeline to continental Europe as a growing row between Russia and Ukraine left many countries short of supplies.
British wholesale prices have leapt in recent days due to the crisis, leading to warnings that UK householders could be denied long-awaited cuts in fuel prices. The price of gas hit 73p a therm -- up 26% in three days.
Government sources warned UK energy companies not to use the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to delay passing on the benefits of otherwise lower world energy prices. One senior Whitehall figure said: "We would expect the energy companies to be responsible and not use this dispute as an excuse to hold off on the price reductions they have talked about which customers are …