Monday, March 3, 2008

US gasoline consumption falls hardest in 16 years

US gasoline consumption falls hardest in 16 years, excepting Katrina

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Credit and cash-strapped Americans are beginning to curb their expenses on gasoline as prices continue their upward rise, new government figures show.

In the last six weeks, US gasoline consumption has fallen 1.1% from 2007, despite the ever-present increase in cars on the road -- the largest drop in 16 years, excepting declines that followed 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

Fearing inflation, investors have poured money into commodities, pushing oil prices close to their adjusted value high of $103.76 in 1980, a paid-restricted article in the Wall Street Journal Monday notes.

"As refiners pay more for the oil they use, gasoline prices have gained sharply in recent weeks to an average of $3.13 a gallon in the week ended Feb. 25, up 40% from $2.24 a gallon in January 2007," adds the Journal. "That's stoking worries that prices will rise even more sharply as demand gets a boost from the approaching vacation season, when more Americans take to the road. Some experts predict gasoline could cost as much as $4 a gallon this summer."

The rising price of gasoline has also pushed some consumers into fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Pinched consumers also are speeding up their shift to more fuel-efficient cars," the article notes. "Sales of large cars dropped by 2.6% in 2006 and by 10.5% in 2007. In January, they plummeted 26.5% from a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp.

Dealers are also selling fewer minivans and large SUVs. Small car sales in January were up 6.5% from 2007, according to a survey by Autodata, the article notes.

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