December 10, 2008 / 7:31 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. gasoline use to decline most since 1979-80

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. gasoline demand is expected to decline more sharply this year and next than in any other two-year period since 1979-1980, the federal Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Hit by high pump prices in the first half of 2008 and the weak economy, America’s gasoline consumption will decline this year by 320,000 barrels per day, or 3.4 percent, and another 50,000 barrels per day, or 0.6 percent, in 2009, the Energy Department’s analytical arm estimated.

In its weekly review of the oil market, the EIA said although the U.S. economy grew in 1979 and 2007, the number of vehicle miles travelled declined in both those years in response to huge increases in fuel prices.

The jump in gasoline costs also contributed to the economic slowdowns that followed each period, the agency said.

In 1980, gasoline demand fell by the largest volume ever, 455,000 barrels per day, and by the biggest proportion, down 6.5 percent, the agency said.

An economic recession then followed during the 1981-82 period, according to the EIA.

Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio

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