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WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Energy Department official said Thursday that Japan's tsunami and nuclear crisis will "probably" have a small impact on gas prices here in America, according to an Associated Press report.
Richard Newell, who oversees data collection, said the disaster caused by the earthquake will likely cut Japan's demand for fuel in the short term because its economy has been slowed. But as the country rebuilds and business activity resumes, it will turn to other fuel sources to compensate for power lost from its crippled nuclear plants, including possibly oil, he said.
"I think in the global scheme of things, it will probably be a small impact," said Newell.
The price of oil fell below $100 per barrel on Wednesday but was back over that mark early Thursday.
The last forecast by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, issued earlier this month, is for U.S. gasoline prices to average $3.56 per gallon this year, up 77 cents from last year's average. It expects gasoline prices to peak during the summer driving season at a U.S. average of $3.70 per gallon.