Year-On-Year US Gasoline Use Still Rising

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Gasoline deliveries in the US during September 2016 reached a new record high (for the month), with roughly 9.4 million barrels being delivered every day of the month, according to new figures from API. That represents a 1.1% year-on-year rise as compared to September 2015.


These figures refer to total motor gasoline deliveries, which are used in the industry as a measure of consumer demand. Altogether, gasoline deliveries during September & Q3 2016 were up from September 2015 & Q3 2015. Year-to-date figures were also up in 2016. The September figures were down, though, from August 2016 — which is to be expected, since people tend to vacation more in August.

How should one take this? Even as all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids have begun to hit the mainstream consumer consciousness, gasoline demand has been slowing rising. While abrupt market changes are certainly a possibility in the 10–20 year time range, for the time being, gasoline demand is likely to rise. In the short term, the only things that seem likely to reverse the trend are another recession (or a deepening of the “current one,” depending on how you look at things) or a large surge in gas prices.

To be clear, I fully expect Tesla to be selling upwards of around a million vehicles a year by 2026. But even if Tesla (and some of the other startups and established automakers) are selling electric vehicles in fairly large numbers, there will still be a lot of gas/petrol vehicles being sold as well. And, more importantly, most of the gas/petrol vehicles being sold right now will still be on the road.

The average working lifespan of a personal vehicle in the US is now somewhere around 12 years. If a substantial replacement of the world’s internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle fleet is to occur rapidly enough to seriously curtail associated emissions, then government action will very likely be a requirement. I’m skeptical that market forces alone would result in a rapid enough transition away from ICE vehicles to limit emissions to a large degree.

For something to think about with regard to the subject, here’s a comment from API’s chief economist, Erica Bowman, that accompanied the release of the gasoline delivery figures: “Even as the official driving season ended on Labor Day, gasoline deliveries for the month of September were the highest on record. It means the economy is moving in the right direction with more Americans working, driving, and shopping.”

And let’s not forget, we’re just talking about the US. Look at what’s happening in China:

china-traffic china-traffic-jam

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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