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Gasoline prices, which fell below $2 a gallon in many parts of the United States over the winter, have been slowly rising again.
And given the supply-and-demand equations in the global oil industry, that means that demand has risen as supplies have stayed steady or fallen.
So even though Saudi Arabia has refused to constrain its production to support oil prices, rising global gasoline demand has run head-on into a reduction in output by higher-cost North American producers.
The result, as a recent article in The Financial Times (registration required) indicates, is rising gasoline prices.
The U.K. business newspaper notes that last month's U.S. gasoline consumption, as estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, was higher than it has been in any month since August 2007.
That was before the economic recession that began that year, at a time when the new vehicles purchased in the U.S. averaged roughly 20 miles per gallon, according to calculations by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
Oil well (photo by John Hill)Enlarge Photo
The comparable figure last month was 25.2 mpg, meaning the average new vehicle on the road used 20 percent less fuel per mile than it did nine years ago.
Still, U.S. consumption isn't up hugely, and it's possible the EIA will issue later revisions to the consumption data.
Demand for fuel has soared in China, India, and Russia, however, as more and more of their citizens are able to purchase new or used vehicles.
The International Energy Agency suggests, in fact, that global demand for gasoline will continue to rise.
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Any changes to its forecasting, it said, “are now more likely to be upwards than downwards, as gasoline demand grows strongly in nearly every key market."
China has been the world's single largest car market for several years now, with sales of 21.1 million passenger vehicles last year against the 17.5 million sold in the U.S.
Across the globe, improved fuel economy and a larger number of small crossover SUV models have led to an increase in utility vehicle sales at the expense of more fuel-efficient sedans and hatchbacks.
And as the U.S. economy slowly continues to improve, adding jobs, miles traveled by commuters in February (the last available month) rose to their highest level for the month, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The price of crude oil hit a recent low of less than $30 a barrel in January this year, but it has risen since then, and currently stands are roughly $50 a barrel.
[Green Car Reports thanks our tipster, who prefers to remain an International Man of Mystery.]