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California fuel consumption dropped during price rise

June 30, 2011 | 12:12 pm

California gasoline prices may have already peaked for the year and have been on the decline for about eight weeks, but the State Board of Equalization has just released figures from March that show the state's fuel consumption was falling that month.

CA_grph Gasoline and diesel prices began rising last September in California and around the rest of the nation as well. They ended 2010 at their highest levels ever for that time of the year and began 2011 at record high levels for the start of a new year. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in California, for example, peaked $4.25 on May 2, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

But Jerome E. Horton, chairman of the Board of Equalization, said that motorists were already cutting back on their driving. In California, gasoline consumption declined 2.7% in March, to 1.24 billion gallons from 1.27 billion gallons a year earlier, and was down 0.1% for the first quarter. Diesel fuel consumption was down 6.9% in March, to 218.7 million gallons from 234.9 million a year earlier, and was off 5.3% for the first quarter, Horton said.

"In California, the average price of a gallon of gas hit $4 in March," Horton said, adding that the numbers were also "evidence of uneven economic growth while the state still moves slowly towards recovery."

Currently, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in California is $3.803, down another 7.6 cents over the last week and 23.6 cents lower than the price one month ago. Last year at this time, the state's average for gasoline was $3.149 a gallon.

The average price for a gallon of diesel in California is $4.214, down from $4.304 a week ago and $4.376 last month, according to the AAA.

-- Ronald D. White

The graphic shows the AAA's rolling 12-month average for California fuel prices.