WASHINGTON, D.C. --- A senior Energy Department official's testimony before the House energy committee on Wednesday provided little hope that gasoline prices will go down anytime soon. "Crude oil prices are expected to remain at relatively high levels, supporting high gasoline prices for the foreseeable future," said Howard K. Gruenspecht, deputy administrator of the Energy Information Administration. According to an AP report of the testimony, he blamed the high prices on a variety of factors including world markets, political instability in oil-rich countries, a shortage of new refineries in the U.S., hurricanes, efforts to change gasoline blends and -- perhaps -- overpricing by oil companies. The "crack spread," a term referring to the difference between the prices of crude oil and refined gasoline, has increased to $21 a barrel, Gruenspecht said. That indicates, he said, that American oil companies are "making good money." Gruenspecht added that experts predicted that crude oil prices would average $68 for a 42-gallon barrel this year and next year as U.S. demand increases 1 percent annually. Average prices for regular gasoline in the summer driving season are expected to hold at $2.71 a gallon. That's 34 cents higher than last year. Of course, some metropolitan areas are experiencing prices much higher than the national average.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials