Gasoline demand in the United States hit an all-time high in 2006, and ever since then has been on the decline. Aided by rising prices, more efficient vehicles, and a slowing population growth, the United States as a whole is not only using less gas than before the recession, but we as a country have entered into a continued trend of decreased gasoline demand, which government officials and industry executives believe will be a permanent trend from this point forward. While current usage is about 8% less than the 2006 peak, experts expect to see as much as a 20% reduction in gasoline use by 2030.
Experts agree that even when the economy rebounds from the recession, gasoline usage will remain below the 2006 figure, which should remain forever untouched barring any massive economic boom periods or drastic fuel price cuts. According to the Associated Press, Americans used about 8.22 million gallons of oil (344 gallons) per day in 2010, down 8% from 2006. That reduction can be attributed to a number of factors such as higher fuel efficiency fleet figures for manufacturers, a higher use of hybrids, an increase in bio-fuels like bio-diesel and ethanol, and continued high gas prices, among other factors.
While the USA might be using less gasoline, it is expected that there will be 27 million more cars on the road by the end of the new decade. Also, developing countries like India and China are expected to start using more fossil fuels in the coming years, which will actually increase the global demand for barrels of oil. In 2011 alone, an expected 88.3 million more barrels of oil are expected to be produced to meet this increased demand.
In the interim, the United States is still #1 both in outright and per capita usage of gasoline, but that status, and the associated buying power that comes with it, is expected to wane over the coming years as China (currently the #2 outright user of petroleum) surpasses us. It’ll be interesting to see from this news how companies like ExxonMobil adapt to the changing market for gasoline, both domestically and abroad.
As someone who dodged the bullet working for the world’s second largest public company (ExxonMobil also has the economy to make it a top 30 country by GDP), I can say that the corporate philosophy seem ill-prepared for a nationwide shift in fuel consumption, and is based on the assumption that a) there will always be a demand for oil, and b) the supply for that demand will never run out. After a discussion on finite resources, that 5 minute job interview concluded.