Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Total and Per Capita Gasoline Sales, Demographics and Culture

A personal (publicly searchable) bookmark, I'll be referring back to these stats. This is a topic where people really tend to see what they want to see: If you are all about fuel economy you see that. The "smart growth"/density people see that, telecommuting proponents, gerontologists all see what they want to see.
From Advisor Perspectives:
Gasoline Volume Sales, Demographics and our Changing Culture
The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) data on volume sales is over two months old when it released. The latest numbers, through mid-February, were published today. However, despite the lag, this report offers an interesting perspective on fascinating aspects of the US economy. Gasoline prices and increases in fuel efficiency are important factors, but there are also some significant demographic and cultural dynamics in this data series.

Because the sales data are highly volatile with some obvious seasonality, I've added a 12-month moving average (MA) to give a clearer indication of the long-term trends. The latest 12-month MA is 8.2% below the all-time high set in August 2005. We are fractionally above the interim low of 8.3% below the high set two months ago in the December report.
The next chart includes an overlay of monthly retail gasoline prices, all grades and formulations. I've shortened the timeline to start with EIA price series, which dates from April 1993. The retail prices are updated weekly, so the price series is the more current of the two.
As we would expect, the rapid rise in gasoline prices in 2008 was accompanied by a significant drop in sales volume. With the official end of the recession in June 2009, sales reversed direction ... slightly. The 12-month MA hit an interim high in November 2010, and then resumed contraction. The moving average for the latest month (February 2013) is about 7.9% below the pre-recession level and 4.8% off the November 2010 interim high. For some historical context, the latest data point is a level first achieved over fourteen years ago, in June 1998.

Some of the shrinkage in sales can be attributed to more fuel-efficient cars. But that presumably would be minor over shorter time frames and would be offset to some extent by population growth. Also, if we look at Edmunds.com for data on the top 10 best-selling vehicles, energy efficiency doesn't seem to be a key factor, to judge from the weighting towards pickup trucks and of SUVs....MORE
A smart little post, eh?