There was a time when there seemed to be a gas station on every corner in America, and lines waiting to fill up. But after hitting its peak in 2006, the U.S. thirst for gasoline may have finally hit its peak and is showing signs of what could be a long decline.
As 2010 draws to a close, U.S. gasoline consumption is expected to average out to about 8.2 million barrels a day, a full 8% less than the peak, four years earlier, government data shows. And the actual figure is slightly less, since that number isn’t adjusted to reflect the ethanol that’s now blended into much of the gasoline pumped at the steadily dwindling number of service stations dotting American roads.
By 2030, projects a study by Deutsche Bank, demand could dip as low as 5.4 million barrels a day – barely what the U.S. consumed in 1969. Other research suggests that figure is too low, but most forecast a dip below 7 million barrels.
A variety of factors appear to be leading to the decline: more fuel-efficient vehicles are a lead factor. Today’s typical automobile gets well more than double the mileage of the vehicles that were on the road in the 1970s, during the days of the first oil shocks. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard is set to jump from 27 miles per gallon to 35.5 mpg by 2016. And, while federal regulators have delayed a decision on what follows, the Obama Administration is clearly in favor of bumping the CAFE figure to as much as 62 mpg by 2025.