WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Though gasoline prices have dropped dramatically over the past several weeks, crude oil pricing shifts could reverse that trend within a few weeks, according to the Energy Department. Gasoline prices may continue to fall a little more over the next week or two, but subsequent pricing will be influenced by the trend in crude oil prices, the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported this week. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories are plentiful today, but that could change with the arrival of winter and ongoing refinery efforts to ramp up distillate fuel production for current needs and next year's peak driving season. Crude oil inventories could fall as refineries continue to increase throughput, unless imports average well above 10 million barrels per day, the EIA said. The Minerals Management Service reported that, as of Nov. 29, more than 564,000 barrels per day of offshore crude oil production remains shut-in. It may be months before the bulk of this shut-in production can come back on line. Some of the production reportedly is not coming back online until mid-2006. "EIA data for last week indicates that U.S. crude oil production averaged less than 4.8 million barrels per day, and it is likely to remain well below 5 million barrels per day for many weeks, if not months, to come," the EIA said.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials