By midday in Europe, benchmark crude for February delivery was down 10 cents to $89.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.58 on Wednesday, the biggest one-day price rise in a month.
Negotiations between President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have dictated market sentiment in recent weeks. On Wednesday, it appeared that a deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes due at the start of next year is still out of reach. The White House threatened to veto an alternative plan that Boehner proposed.
Without a deal, the hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts and tax hikes that will take effect could throw the U.S. economy back into recession, analysts have said. Such a prospect would likely mean decreasing energy demand.
In other energy futures trading, Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 19 cents to $110.17 per barrel in London.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange:
-- Heating oil was unchanged at $3.04 a gallon.
-- Natural gas rose 5 cents to $3.37 per 1,000 cubic feet.
-- Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cents to $2.73 a gallon.