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Fuel economy standards drive down projected gasoline use

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

In the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2014 Reference case, more stringent vehicle fuel economy standards contribute to a decline in motor gasoline consumption through 2040.

At the same time, the outlook anticipates growth in heavy duty vehicle miles travelled (VMT) that is greater than increasing heavy duty vehicle fuel economy, contributing to rising fuel demand.

According to the EIA, one of the primary drivers in the decline in motor gasoline consumption is more stringent fuel economy standards that will require new light duty vehicles to average approximately 49 miles/gal. in vehicle model year (MY) 2025. The current compliance estimate is approximately 33 miles/gal. in MY 2012.

The Reference case projects an increase in VMT that, all else equal, would increase motor gasoline fuel consumption. However, higher fuel efficiency standards more than offset this increase to result in an overall decline in motor gasoline consumption.

Meanwhile, a strong increase in heavy duty VMT leads to an increase in consumption of diesel fuel, even as heavy-duty vehicle fuel economy increases in response to EPA fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards.

EIA expects new refinery projects to focus on shifting production from gasoline to distillate fuels to meet growing domestic and global demand for diesel. In addition to meeting domestic demand, refineries continue to export finished products to international markets throughout the projection. The US became a net exporter of finished petroleum products in 2011, with net petroleum exports growing in the Reference case through 2040.

The EIA has emphasized that the projections for gasoline and diesel use in the Reference case reflect current laws and policies, including fuel efficiency standards that have already been issued as final rules. Further efficiency standards and changes in travel behaviour are key uncertainties that could result in future fuel use being different from the Reference case projections.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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