The United States is by far the world’s largest consumer of gasoline. But consumption has fallen compared with pre-pandemic levels, and it’s plausible that the U.S. has passed its peak gasoline use. Explore the interactive graphic below to see how gasoline consumption has changed over time.
A few takeaways
- This graph shows the amount of gasoline consumed in the U.S. The dotted line at the end is the expected gasoline use over the coming two years. The data is from the Energy Information Administration.
- Driving and gasoline use peak in the summer and hit their annual low point in January.
- The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted everything, including driving habits and the gasoline supply chain. The sharp dip in gasoline use in March 2020 occurred when many Americans stopped driving to work, school, and most other places.
- Beginning in January 2022, gasoline consumption resumed the same seasonal pattern as before the pandemic, but at a lower level.
- One cause for the decline in gasoline use is that Americans are driving less — in part due to remote and hybrid work and less commuting than in the pre-COVID days. High gas prices may also have contributed to a reduction in driving, particularly in mid-2022 when prices peaked.
- Another reason is improving fuel economy, especially as the adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles is growing. In the first quarter of 2023, electric vehicles accounted for 7.2% of all new car purchases, and EV and hybrid sales are booming.
- If, indeed, the U.S. has passed the peak of gasoline use, the high mark occurred in August 2019, at 413 million gallons per day, or 1.2 gallons of gasoline per day for every person in the U.S.
- Gasoline is the single-largest use of crude oil. That the needle may be starting to move on a large portion of global fossil fuel consumption is welcome news in terms of reducing air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, benzene, and climate-warming carbon pollution.
The fine print
The data shows ‘’motor gasoline supplied,” which is a good approximation of consumption. The detailed definition below is paraphrased from the Energy Information.
The term “product supplied” approximately represents consumption of petroleum products because it measures the disappearance of these products from primary sources, i.e., refineries, natural gas-processing plants, blending plants, pipelines, and bulk terminals. In general, “product supplied” is computed as follows: field production, plus refinery production, plus imports, plus unaccounted-for crude oil (plus net receipts when calculated on a PAD District basis) minus stock change, minus crude oil losses, minus refinery inputs, and minus exports.