WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) -- Lower energy prices, including for retail gasoline, translated to a rise in U.S. consumer demand in February, the American Petroleum Institute said.
The API, which provides industry data as well as representing its business interests, reported total delivery of petroleum products in February averaged 19.8 million barrels per day. The metric, up 2 percent from February 2015, serves as a barometer to gauge consumer demand.
"Low gasoline prices continued to drive up demand in February," Hazem Arafa, API director of statistics, said in a statement. "In fact, gasoline demand rose to a new all-time record for the month as drivers took advantage of the low prices."
Crude oil prices in February dipped below $30 per barrel in a market pressured by weak economic momentum and higher supplies. By mid-February, the national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline hit $1.69 per gallon. That period marked a low-point, however, as refiners had started preparations necessary to start making a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to make because of the additional environmental safeguards necessary for warmer driving months.
API said total demand for petroleum products in February was at the highest level in eight years. Total motor gasoline deliveries, meanwhile, rose 5.2 percent year-on-year to the highest level on record for February.
Production of gasoline in February was up 3.2 percent for the year at 9.9 million barrels per day. In a further sign of increasing demand, total petroleum imports into the United States were up 6.7 percent from one year ago to nearly 9.9 million bpd, API data show.