Pain for drivers: ‘Insatiable’ gas demand for summer despite record prices
Record gasoline prices are not keeping down summer travelers who are planning to hit the roads at a higher rate this year than last, according to a new survey.
Fuel industry data firm GasBuddy found that 58% of people intended to road-trip this summer. The share represents an increase from last summer, when per-gallon prices were around $1.50 lower than the record $4.593-per-gallon nationwide average Friday.
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The share of participants who said high gas prices have factored into their plans is up 24% this year over last, GasBuddy noted, showing that consumer demand is being affected.
In any case, the 58% data point stuck out to Patrick De Haan, petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, who said it represents “insatiable” demand going into the holiday weekend.
“People aren’t responding to price,” he said.
De Haan emphasized that the current price dynamic and consumer behavior is a basic lesson in “Econ 101.”
“It’s when supply exceeds demand that we’ll start to see prices go down, and guess what — without some major development, supply is not going to suddenly jump up overnight and exceed demand,” he said. “And that’s why this is going to be probably a longer-term issue.”
Others like De Haan have considered a reduction in demand as the quickest and most accessible way to bring down prices.
The International Energy Agency published a plan in the weeks after the war in Ukraine began, laying out 10 actions nations could take to reduce oil demand and thereby “reduce the price pain.” The list included things such as lowering speed limits and working more frequently from home.
Since the war’s disruption to oil markets, states including Maryland and Georgia have enacted gas tax holidays to reduce the price of fuel, but critics say those measures shored up demand when the market needed the opposite.
“The oil market is desperately in need of demand destruction,” Bloomberg analyst Javier Blas wrote in late March. He said governments instead “should either be encouraging behavioral changes such as using more public transportation or allowing expensive fuel to force consumers to change.”
Maryland’s and Georgia’s tax holidays have since expired.
Beyond GasBuddy’s survey, some bigger-picture data show that gasoline demand has fallen during the past two months, although it looks to be trending back up as summer approaches.
The Energy Information Administration tracks gasoline demand quantified as total “finished motor gasoline” on a weekly basis. Total gas demand is down by 1.2% this year compared to the same time last year, according to the EIA, but demand has been increasing for consecutive weeks based on the same metric, even as prices increase.
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Refiners produced more than 9 million barrels of gasoline per day to the market for the week ending May 13, the highest number since the week of Feb. 4.