Publications: Notes at the Margin

Gasoline Use: Misunderstood (August 27, 2018)


The "Gasoline Season" is ending. US consumption of gasoline and other motor fuels has displayed very strong seasonal patterns for decades. And, for decades, those following the oil industry have attributed the fluctuations to summer vacation driving by American families. This year has turned out to be a bad one for those selling gasoline. Depending on the data source, sales are one to three percent lower than they were a year ago.


Our analysis here and in previous reports reveals that housing starts are a key determinant of gasoline consumption. Given the current circumstances in the housing sector, future gasoline consumption will likely continue to decrease. The declining affordability of housing combined with rising construction costs and the federal tax law changes will probably constrain housing starts. This means we may not see significant increases in domestic gasoline consumption in 2019, 2020, or even later.


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