Think rising gas prices are going crimp American driving patterns?
Here’s the latest from MasterCard, via Platts:
The Mastercard data, which we’ve written about before, is one of many imperfect ways of trying to measure US gasoline demand. It’s based on credit card swipes, and it comes out weekly.
The weekly information is subject to so many variables that it should probably be overlooked. But the four-week average is probably more accurate, since it smooths out some of the variables, such as a moveable holiday like Easter, or a big weather event that keeps everyone home.
And what the report the last few weeks has been showing is that Americans have been driving a lot.
The most recent estimate of the total weekly demand, based on the four-week average, put US gasoline consumption at 67.122 million barrels. That’s for the week ending April 2. It’s the second week in a row where the rolling four-week average topped 67 million barrels of total gasoline demand in the US.
The last time we hit this level was last July. The time before that was in August 2008.
Here’s the really remarkable part:
Notice something? All those other times when the numbers exceeded 67 million barrels occurred during the summer driving season. So despite almost 10% unemployment, despite gasoline prices that are edging toward the $3/gal mark, despite the dumping of SUVs and the love affair with hybirds, the MasterCard data suggests that Americans consumed more gasoline in March than at any time in US history. The MasterCard data only goes back to 2004, but gasoline consumption in the US was higher in the middle part of this decade than at any other time in history, so these MasterCard numbers for last month are revealing something that is very surprising.
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