Drivers cutting gasoline use, despite price drop

U.S. drivers are cutting their gasoline use, with demand for the fuel dropping 3.7 percent over the first week of December, according to MasterCard’s gasoline report.

Despite lower prices  during the past few months, motorists continue to reduce their reliance on gasoline. AAA shows a 12-cent drop in the average price for a gallon of regular over the past month. But gasoline demand has fallen more than 2 percent for each of the past several weeks, compared to the same periods in 2011, the MasterCard report notes.

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While pump prices have fallen to a national average of $3.31 per gallon, the decline hasn’t fully erased the hikes that occurred during the summer. A year ago, the average price for a gallon of regular was $3.27, according to AAA.

Texans are  enjoying some of the lowest prices in the country,  paying an average $3.10 for a gallon of regular. Houstonians are faring even better, paying $3.08.

Still, it seems that declining fuel demand will continue through the end of the year. Christmas fell on a Sunday  in 2011, consolidating most travel around that weekend. However, John Gamel, economic research analyst for MasterCard, notes that the holiday occurs on a Tuesday this year.

“Travel may be more spread out between two weeks unlike last year,” Gamel noted in a written statement.

Further curbing demand, Gamel added, “Last year was a relatively mild winter across most of the United States, so any major winter storms this year will create additional year-over-year headwinds.”

For the entire year to date, national gasoline use has dropped 3.6 percent compared to 2011, according to MasterCard.