US Gas Consumption Down, Biofuels Replacing Oil

John Davis

Three years ago, petroleum-based gasoline consumption was the highest the U.S. had ever seen. But thanks in part to biofuels, including biodiesel and ethanol, the amount of gas we use has actually gone down since the peak of 2007.

This article in the Kansas City Star says that while the recession and the increased popularity of smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles has helped cut petroleum use, alternative fuels have done their part and will cover any expected increases in fuel use. And by 2035, American motorists are expected to use less gasoline than they do now:

“We’re on a slow but inexorable path away from petroleum. This is a big deal,” said James Williams, an analyst with WTRG Economics, an oil and gas consultancy.

That decline is reverberating through the oil industry. Refineries now use only 78.5 percent of their capacity, the lowest level since the federal government began routinely collecting the information in 1990. Valero Energy, which once bought refineries enthusiastically, now snaps up ethanol plants instead…

Federal tax incentives for ethanol, though widely criticized, have helped increase production from less than 1 billion gallons in 1992 to 10.5 billion last year. That reduces by 5 percent the amount of gas the country needs.

The article goes on to say that the Energy Information Administration believes that in the next 25 years, petroleum will still account for 88 percent of the fuel for cars and light trucks with the rest coming from mostly ethanol, followed by electricity, natural gas, hydrogen and propane. And some experts believe that alternative fuels could grow even faster if the right infrastructure is put in place.

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