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Gasoline demand in U.S. falls below 2020 lockdown summer

Americans are officially driving less than they did in the summer of 2020 — back when pandemic travel restrictions all but halted movement.

The four-week average of U.S. gasoline consumption, the best gauge for the country’s demand, is now more than 1 million barrels a day below pre-Covid seasonal norms, according to federal Energy Information Administration data. As for the headline comparison with the Covid lockdown summer of 2020: The four-week running average for the week ending July 31, 2020, was 8.656 million barrels a day, while the average for the week ending July 29, 2022, was 8.592 million.

Either number is still considerably greater than the worst of the lockdown in April 2020, when virtually everyone stayed home and consumption plunged to 5.3 million barrels.

This summer’s drop suggests the glimmer of demand recovery seen last week was fleeting: Though pump prices have fallen for 50 straight days, with the current national average price of a gallon of unleaded at $4.16, it’s not enough to lure drivers back to the road with historic inflation constraining consumer budgets.

The dip in demand caused gasoline futures to plunge as much as 11% in New York Wednesday. While that should pull retail prices even lower, the relief at the pump may come too late as the summer driving season nears its end. 

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