March-delivery light, sweet crude oil prices climbed to $101 per barrel Thursday as Iran asked its oil cartel to play hardball with international sanctions.
With some success, the United States is forming a coalition of countries to sanction Iran as retaliation for its alleged nuclear weapons program.
The issue is bound to jostle oil markets for some time to come. The European Union has said it would join in the effort to punish Iran, but not until July.
The latest diplomatic jolt came from Iran, which asked the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to stop Saudi Arabia from its intention to pump more oil if supplies from Iran are curtailed, The Wall Street Journal reported.
On a more immediate supply note, the Energy Information Agency said U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 3.6 million barrels in the week ending Jan. 20 to 334.9 million barrels.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude added $1.60 to reach $101 per barrel.
Home heating oil added 3.69 cents $3.0473 per gallon. Reformulated blendstock gasoline added 2.15 cents to $2.8589 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices lost 5.3 cents to $2.716 per million British thermal units.
At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline was unchanged overnight, holding at $3.379 per gallon, AAA said.