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Gasoline consumption per capita in 2020 was on par with that in 1965

by Michael Sivak, Sivak Applied Research.

Because of the pandemic, there was a substantial reduction in 2020 in vehicle miles traveled. The biggest drop was in April 2020 (a reduction of 40% compared with April 2019) followed by a gradual rebound later in the year. In December 2020, the reduction was 11% compared with December 2019. Overall, vehicle miles traveled in 2020 were down 13% compared with 2019.

This analysis examines the effect of this downturn in driving on gasoline consumption (both total and per capita), and places the consumption in 2020 in a historical context. The results show that gasoline consumption per capita in 2020 was on par with that 55 years ago.

Total consumption

Total gasoline consumption for highway use dropped from 136,076 million gallons in 2019 to 117,251 million gallons in 2020, a drop of 14%. The last time the total consumption was lower than in 2020 was in 1995. Therefore, the table below shows the annual consumptions between 1995 and 2020. (The maximum—136,468 million gallons—was reached in 2014.)

Year Total consumption (millions of gallons) Year Total consumption (millions of gallons)
1995 117,061 2008 132,254
1996 119,515 2009 132,297
1997 120,938 2010 133,725
1998 124,694 2011 131,274
1999 128,743 2012 130,935
2000 128,884 2013 131,299
2001 129,682 2014 136,468
2002 132,955 2015 132,243
2003 134,634 2016 135,559
2004 136,455 2017 135,301
2005 135,176 2018 135,337
2006 134,836 2019 136,076
2007 135,418 2020 117,251

Consumption per capita

Gasoline consumption per capita was calculated using the population estimates in the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States. Consumption per capita dropped from 414 gallons in 2019 to 356 gallons in 2020, again a drop of 14%. The last time the consumption per capita was lower than in 2020 was in 1965. Therefore, the table below shows the consumptions per capita for selected years between 1965 and 2020.

Year Consumption per capita (gallons) Year Consumption per capita (gallons)
1965 346 2000 457
1966 358 2010 432
1967 368 2011 421
1968 387 2012 417
1969 406 2013 415
1970 420 2014 429
1976 483 2015 412
1977 491 2016 420
1978 505 2017 416
1979 481 2018 414
1980 445 2019 414
1990 439 2020 356

The maximum consumption per capita (505 gallons) was reached in 1978. Not coincidentally, the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for new cars and light trucks became effective with 1978 model-year vehicles.

Michael Sivak is the managing director of Sivak Applied Research and the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan.



Of note here is when consumption goes down the price of fuel goes up to assure the oil companies make their Wall Street Numbers In California gasoline is upward to $4.50 a gallon for regular.
Another reason other than pollution to go electric.


The statistic is very interesting, but just a statistic. If you consider that the increase in the number of vehicles, size and catenary led to a decrease in fuel consumption, which is very good. Only with the average mileage of private citizens I am not satisfied because we private people drive much less than commercial vehicles. It should also be taken into account that, especially in California, a large number of trucks run on 8.8 liter V8 petrol engines. The EPA should publish the gasoline consumption per mpg in order to have a comparison of how economical the nasty diesels are.
It is also very important to know that the oil price is determined by speculators, producing countries, politicians and the media. Currently the oil price is so high that the BEV vehicle policy demonizes the ICE vehicles and thereby legalizes high oil prices. I find this very dubious and impolite, as BEV batteries become defective after 10 years and can no longer be used in the vehicle. An ICE vehicle lives at least 30 years! I like e-fuels.


"I like e-fuels", said Bugs Bunny and continued to chew on his carrot.

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