Shifting Gears

Despite struggling economy, NW gasoline use ticks up.

Shifting gears chart

For immediate release: June 30, 2010

Media contact: 
Eric Hess, [email protected], 206-447-1880 x 109

Authors:
Eric de Place, [email protected], 206-447-1880 x 105
Clark Williams-Derry, [email protected], 206-447-1880 x 106

Shifting Gears: Despite struggling economy, NW gasoline use ticks up

Brief summary:

  • We’re using more gas. Drivers in the Northwest states of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington used more gasoline last year, reversing a decade-long trend of declining personal gas consumption. Per capita consumption increased slightly in 2009, while total consumption rose by 2 percent.
  • Lower fuel prices boosted consumption. After gasoline prices fell from their 2008 peaks, gasoline sales inched up. Even in the face of the worst economy in decades, low gas prices mattered more than tight wallets.
  • British Columbia binges. Per capita gasoline consumption in the province rose by nearly 10 percent in 2009–the largest year-over-year increase in at least 30 years–likely because of economic activity preceding the Winter Olympics.
  • Diesel is down. In the Northwest states, diesel fuel consumption declined sharply in 2009. Diesel is an indicator of commercial activity, especially trucking.
  • Smart policies are key to progress. The right policies–such as pollution fees or carbon taxes–could put the Northwest back on the path to reducing its gasoline consumption. In light of the Gulf oil disaster, policymakers could levy stiffer clean-up charges on the oil industry, which would help guard against spills and other contamination in Northwest waters.

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Published: June 30, 2010