Addicted To Oil: US Gasoline Consumption Is Larger Than Ever

August was the biggest month ever for U.S. gasoline consumption. Americans used a staggering 9.7 million barrels per day. That’s greater than a gallon per day for each U.S. man, lady and child.

chlorinated toluene towerThe new peak comes as a shock to many. In 2012, energy expert Daniel Yergin mentioned, “The U.S. has already reached what we will call`peak demand.” Many others agreed. The U.S. Department of Power forecast in 2012 that U.S. gasoline consumption would steadily decline for the foreseeable future.

Supply: Constructed by Lucas Davis (UC Berkeley) utilizing EIA data ‘Motor Gasoline, 4-Week Averages.’

This seemed to make sense on the time. U.S. gasoline consumption had declined for 5 years in a row and, in 2012, was one million barrels per day below its July 2007 peak. Additionally in August 2012, President Obama had just introduced aggressive new gasoline economy requirements that would push common car gas economy to fifty four miles per gallon.

Quick forward to 2016, and U.S. gasoline consumption has elevated steadily four years in a row. We now have a brand new peak. This dramatic reversal has necessary penalties for petroleum markets, the surroundings and the U.S. financial system.

How did we get right here? There were a number of factors, including the the nice Recession and a spike in gasoline costs at the top of the final decade, which are unlikely to be repeated any time quickly. Nevertheless it should come as no shock. With incomes increasing once more and low gasoline prices, People are back to buying huge automobiles and driving more miles than ever before.

The nice Recession

The slowdown in U.S. gasoline consumption between 2007 and 2012 occurred during the worst global recession since World War II. The Nationwide Bureau of Economic Research dates the nice Recession as beginning December 2007, precisely at first of the slowdown in gasoline consumption. The financial system remained anemic, with unemployment above 7 p.c by 2013, just about when gasoline consumption started to increase once more.

Economists have shown in dozens of research that there is a sturdy constructive relationship between income and gasoline consumption – when people have extra to spend, gasoline utilization goes up. During the nice Recession, Individuals traded of their automobiles for extra gasoline-environment friendly fashions, and drove fewer miles. However now, as incomes are growing again, Americans are shopping for bigger cars and trucks with larger engines, and driving more complete miles.

Gasoline prices

The other necessary explanation is gasoline costs. Throughout the primary half of 2008, gasoline costs increased sharply. It is tough to recollect now, however U.S. gasoline prices peaked during the summer of 2008 above US$4.00 gallon, driven by crude oil prices that had topped out above $140/barrel.

Gasoline prices in Washington D.C. top $four a gallon in 2008.
brownpau/flickr, CC BY


These $4.00+ prices had been quick-lived, however gasoline costs nonetheless remained steep during most of 2010 to 2014, before falling sharply during 2014. Indeed, it was these high costs that contributed to the lower in U.S. gasoline consumption between 2007 and 2012. Demand curves, in any case, do slope down. Economists have proven that Americans are getting much less sensitive to gasoline costs, but there remains to be a strong detrimental relationship between costs and gasoline consumption.

Moreover, since gasoline costs plummeted in the last few months of 2014, People have been shopping for gasoline like loopy. Last year was the biggest yr ever for U.S. car gross sales, with trucks and SUVs leading the cost. This summer season People took to the roads in record numbers. The U.S. common retail value for gasoline was $2.24 per gallon on August 29, 2016, the lowest Labor Day value in 12 years. No wonder Americans are driving more.

Can fuel economy requirements flip the tide?

It’s exhausting to make predictions. Still, in retrospect, it appears clear that the years of the good Recession were highly unusual. For decades U.S. gasoline consumption has gone up and up – driven by rising incomes – and it seems that we at the moment are very a lot again on that path.

This all illustrates the deep problem of lowering fossil fuel use in transportation. U.S. electricity era, in distinction, has grow to be considerably greener over this similar period, with monumental declines in U.S. coal consumption. Reducing gasoline consumption is more durable, however. The out there substitutes, comparable to electric autos and biofuels, are costly and never essentially less carbon-intensive. For example, electric automobiles can really improve total carbon emissions in states with mostly coal-fired electricity.

How we roll: Individuals are buying much less fuel-environment friendly automobiles, equivalent to SUVs, as gas prices go down.
gasoline pump from

Can new gasoline financial system requirements flip the tide? Perhaps, but the brand new “footprint”-based mostly rules are yielding smaller gasoline economic system good points than was anticipated. With the new rules, the fuel financial system goal for each automobile depends on its total size (i.e., its “footprint”); so as Individuals have bought more trucks, SUVs and different massive automobiles, this relaxes the general stringency of the standard. So, sure, fuel economic system has improved, but much less than it might have without this mechanism.

Additionally, automakers are pushing again arduous, arguing that low gasoline costs make the standards too hard to meet. Some lawmakers have raised similar issues. The EPA’s comment window for the standards’ midterm evaluate ends Sept. 26, so we are going to quickly have a better idea what the requirements will appear to be transferring ahead.

Regardless of what occurs, gasoline financial system standards have a fatal flaw that essentially limits their effectiveness. They’ll increase gasoline economy, however they don’t enhance the associated fee per mile of driving. Americans will drive three.2 trillion miles in 2016, more miles than ever earlier than. Why wouldn’t we? Gas is cheap.

Lucas Davis, Affiliate Professor, College of California, Berkeley

This article was initially revealed on The Dialog. Read the unique article.

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