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California reverses 4-year trend, uses more gasoline

December 30, 2010 |  4:20 pm

Californians increased their gasoline consumption in the third quarter, according to the state's Board of Equalization.

It was the second straight quarterly increase and may have marked the end of a long running period in which the state's fuel consumption had decreased in 14 out of 16 calendar quarters, dating to early 2006. That was in spite of the fact that the state was adding large numbers of new drivers throughout the period.

Gaspump Jerome E. Horton, vice chairperson of the California State Board of Equalization, said in a statement Thursday that gasoline consumption increased 1.6% in September compared with a year ago. Consumption rose 0.8% in the third quarter, when Californians used 3.8 billion gallons of gas compared with the 3.77 billion gallons recorded in the same quarter a year earlier.

Outside experts said that the shift reflects an improving economy and may also signal a sense of resignation among the state's drivers, who had begun the long slide in consumption in 2006 as gasoline prices neared $3 a gallon. The board said that the average price of gasoline at the pump in California during the third quarter of 2010 was $3.14, up 3% compared with 2009.

In September 2010, gasoline consumption increased 1.6% when Californians used 1.24 billion gallons of gasoline compared with 1.22 billion gallons a year earlier. That came as the average price of gasoline at the pump in California was $3.06 per gallon.

A historical record of gasoline consumption in the state can be found at the Board of Equalization here.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price information Service in New Jersey said that consumption is up nationally as well, citing new Energy Department figures released Thursday. The Energy Department said that overall petroleum demand is up 6.1% compared with 2009.

--Ronald D. White

 Photo credit: Behrouz Mehri / AFP Getty Images