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U.S. gasoline consumption at record highs

Better fuel economy helping to balance some of the market factors at play, federal report finds.

By Daniel J. Graeber
U.S. gasoline consumption at record highs
U.S. gasoline consumption, as well as miles traveled, set records this summer, a federal report finds. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The amount of gasoline consumed and the total miles traveled during peak summer travel time in the United States set a new record, a federal report said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported total motor gasoline consumption in June set a record of 9.7 million barrels per day, beating the previous record set in July 2007 by about 1 percent.

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"U.S. gasoline consumption during summer 2016 -- June through August -- increased by 169,000 bpd, or 1.8 percent, relative to the same period in 2015," EIA reported.

Miles traveled, meanwhile, set a new record for June, with a year-on-year increase of nearly 3 percent to 9.3 billion miles per day on average, EIA. That means people drove more on less fuel.

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"The increase in gasoline consumption was slightly lower than the increase in driving, suggesting that fuel economy improvements slightly mitigated the increase," the report read.

Average fuel economies have improved by about 28 percent since the beginning of the millennium. Gasoline production, meanwhile, is just short of an all-time record, which is keeping prices at the pump in check.

Retail fuel prices may in part explain the increase in travel, as well as general improvements in the U.S. economy. The average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline on a national basis is relatively unchanged from last year. The latest report on gross domestic production, meanwhile, finds the economy grew by 1 percent from the second quarter.

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Motor club AAA reports a national average price of $2.21 per gallon, though that price point may be skewed higher because of this week's fatal gasoline pipeline explosion in Alabama. Even then, today's average is less than one week ago. The all-time record for a national average was $4.11 per gallon in July 2008.

EIA expects national gas prices to fall below the $2 mark by January and average $2.26 per gallon for full-year 2017. Gasoline consumption is expected to be 0.5 percent higher in 2017 than this year.

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