American Drivers Guzzled a Tiny Bit Less Gasoline Last Year

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. gasoline consumption fell for the first time since 2012 last year. By a little.

Americans consumed 0.006 percent less gasoline than they did in the prior year, government data show. Demand shrank the most year-over-year during the first quarter as prices were stronger and undocumented immigrants started driving less after President Donald Trump’s administration took over with harsh rhetoric on immigration.

Part of the slow-down in sales comes from higher prices: regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.39 a gallon last year versus $2.12 in 2016, according to AAA data compiled by Bloomberg.

Demand is expected to perk back up in 2018. Consumption will grow slightly to 9.33 million barrels a day this year and 9.4 million in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook. But longer term, fuel-economy measures will reduce gasoline use by 31 percent through 2050, the agency said.

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