What's Behind High Oil Prices?

This week the price of oil hit a record, briefly topping $80 a barrel. But why?

Oil traders were watching as Hurricane Humberto roared through the Gulf of Mexico, fearing that hundreds of off-shore drilling rigs and coastline refinery facilities might be forced to shut down. But few analysts are blaming the weather for what happened to the price of crude.

As CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports, the reason for the price spike depends on who you ask. One analyst places the blame on low supplies of gasoline.

"Gasoline inventories have been running at 20-year lows," said energy trader Eric Bolling. "I've been trading 22 years and I don't think I've ever seen a situation where gasoline inventories are at this level."

But others argue gasoline inventories alone don't explain the hike in crude oil prices, pointing out that crude oil inventories - the source of gas - are about normal for this time of year.

"We have seen some decreases in U.S. crude oil inventories, but that is what we see on a seasonal basis," said Bill O'Grady of A.G. Edwards.

O'Grady believes the price of oil is going up not because of demand or global crises but because of the Federal Reserve and inflation fears.

Next week, the Fed is expected to cut interest rates.

"The financial markets are clamoring for a large cut of one half percent so the fear is - among investors - is that to ease this aggressively, without some evidence that inflation is under control, could spark higher inflation down the road," O'Grady said. "And to protect themselves from that, they're going to traditional inflation hedges which are oil and gold."

So far higher crude prices have not hit consumers at the pump. With the summer driving season over, the price of gas appears to be holding steady. But it's a good bet that the price of crude will find a way to your wallet sooner or later.