After decades of almost uninterrupted increases in consumption, the demand for gasoline in the United States is declining, according to the National Resources Defense Council and other energy experts. At this rate, the United States will use 20 percent less gasoline by 2030 than it uses today.
That’s good news, indeed.
Accounting for this change involves several factors.
First is the increased use of ethanol, which the federal government mandated to be blended into gasoline. As more corn-based ethanol is used, less petroleum-based fuel will be needed.
Then there is the trend away from gas-guzzling SUVs. After the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina drove national gas prices above the $3-a-gallon average, Americans began looking for more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. They found them, bought them and are driving them.
However, consumers also are driving less. Part of this is due to the recession; however, the trend pre-dates the economic meltdown. In some cases, a demographic shift caused by people living closer to their jobs has been a factor. In other instances, the debate over our dependence on foreign oil has played a part.
Meanwhile, reaction to the BP oil spill has not been fully felt, though that will be an issue in the coming years as drivers consider how America’s thirst for oil led to that environmental disaster. There is no single cause, but the combination is bringing down consumption.
Among the many benefits of this trend is the impact on the air we breathe. By 2020, according to some estimates, burning less gasoline will reduce the annual carbon dioxide emissions by 400 billion pounds, which is like taking 32 million cars off the road.
Obviously, there are those who see these projections as being too good to be true. But even if they overstate the decline, there is general agreement that a decline will occur, that we will use less gasoline, and that our air will be cleaner.
That is good news for the new year.