These two graphs, from EIA's This Week in Petroleum 4/26, clearly show that, right now, crude oil stock has little to do with gasoline stocks (inventory).
and gasoline prices. With crude oil stocks at above average values, gasoline stocks have dipped below average values. This largely due to the fact that terminals have been reducing their inventories of finished ReFormulated Gasoline (RFG), which contains MTBE, in order to make room for Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending (RBOB) with alcohol. Because of corrosion problems, ethanol cannot be blended into gasoline until just before it gets trucked to retail stations. This means that stocks of RFG will virtually disappear. In other words the stocks of RFG with MTBE have to be used up and replaced with RBOB (for blending with alcohol), during the transition to using ethanol as the oxygenate rather than MTBE as is shown in the graph below. The fact that ethanol cannot be transported in pipelines and must be transported via tank truck or ship complicates this as well as the fact than we must import substantial quantities of ethanol until the domestic supply catches up with the requirement for blending. Getting ethanol in the right place for blending plus the $0.54 per gallon import tariff on ethanol are the primary causes for high prices of gasoline. having nothing to do with the high prices of crude. When the ethanol problem gets ironed out then we may have to worry about crude prices supply, especially during the July-August peak demand for gasoline. The price of gasoline is strongly affected by the price of crude which represents about 55% of the cost of gasoline. I hope this makes sense, the popular press seems to be having a problem explaining this. (Revised 4/29 As I did-I was wrongly thinking that high crude inventories meant low crude prices-we have a world market for crude and must pay prices based on the worlds demand, not just the US demand.)