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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Is U.S. Gasoline Consumption Set To Collapse?

U.S. individual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) growth has been flat since June 2017, and the potential end of the VMT growth that started in early 2014 may be an indicator of slowing oil consumption, according to government data compiled by Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(Click to enlarge)

Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the U.S. Last year, motor gasoline consumption averaged about 9.3 million bpd, or 391 million gallons per day—the largest amount recorded and equal to about 47 percent of total U.S. petroleum consumption, data by the EIA shows.

Some 29 percent of all U.S. energy consumption in 2016 was for transporting people and goods from one place to another, the EIA says. Petroleum products provided around 92 percent of the total energy the U.S. transportation sector used last year.

The latest available data by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that the seasonally adjusted vehicle miles traveled for October 2017 stood at 268 billion miles, a 0.8-percent increase over October 2016, and 0.2-percent growth as compared to September 2017. The cumulative estimate for this year is 2,685 billion vehicle miles of travel.

In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the EIA said that in November, U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.56/gallon, an increase of nearly 6 cents/gal from the average in October, primarily reflecting rising crude oil prices. EIA forecasts the U.S. regular gasoline retail price will average $2.59/gal this month, 34 cents/gal higher than at the same time in 2016. For 2018, EIA expects U.S. regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.51/gal. Related: This OPEC Member Aims To Boost Oil Output By 40 percent

Gasoline prices and increases in fuel efficiency are important factors in U.S. gasoline sales that are also highly seasonal, but according to Jill Mislinski at Advisor Perspectives, there are also some significant demographic and cultural dynamics affecting the U.S. gasoline consumption trends.

In a post from November 2017, Advisor Perspectives said that apart from fuel efficiency improvements, declines in gasoline consumption can be attributable in large part to factors such as an aging population leaving the workforce; growing trend toward working from home; social media providing alternatives to face-to-face interaction requiring transportation; a general trend in young adults to drive less; and accelerating urban population growth, which reduces the per-capita dependence on gasoline.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • John Brown on December 23 2017 said:
    I like articles like this that show why in the near future oil prices will go sharply down despite the efforts of the entire industry, and support industries to push the price of oil higher. First there remains a glut of oil on the market despite the best efforts of Russia/OPEC to idle capacity and reduce production. Those efforts create the psychology that allows everyone to push prices higher, but it doesn't change the glut of oil on the market, or that $60 a barrel oil means the U.S. is in a mad rush to produce more oil, and they will always beat expectation and get it to market faster than anyone expects when there is to be money made. Then there is the inevitable fact that new technologies are both reducing demand, and making renewables cheaper and more readily available. OPEC/Russia and the industry artificially pushing prices above what supply and demand justifies, which is more like $30 to $40 a barrel oil, only incents more production of oil in gas in the U.S. and non-OPEC countries, and the continued replacement of oil with renewables and other energy sources, and the increased efficiency of cars etc that will use less and less oil.

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