Californians bought less gas last year


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When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘Let’s go take a drive’? It probably wasn’t recently.

California gasoline consumption for the first 10 months of 2009 fell 1.3% compared to the same period in 2008, according to the California State Board of Equalization, which tracks the statistics to monitor how much excise taxes the state will collect.


Gasoline consumption also fell in October, the last month for which statistics are available, to about 1.246 billion gallons from 1.251 billion gallons in October of 2008. That 0.4% decline ended a five-month period in which filling up at California pumps had either increased slightly or remained flat.

But the long-term trend in California has been a steady drop in taxable gasoline consumption since 2005, when it peaked at more than 15.9 billion gallons, according to Board of Equalization statistics. Consumption fell by about 900 million gallons in 2008, and 2009 was on pace to set another slight decline.

This is all the more remarkable when the number of licensed drivers in California is thrown into the mix. In 2005, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said that the state had 22.9 million licensed drivers. New DMV figures for 2010 show that the number of licensed drivers in the state has increased by about 820,000 since 2005, the peak year for gasoline consumption.

Recent statistics for the amount of taxable diesel fuel bought in California shows an even steeper drop, reflecting the strong influence of the global recession, with results including fewer runs for long- and short-haul truckers, and idled construction equipment.

Diesel fuel sold in California during October 2009 totaled 224 million gallons compared to the October 2008 total of 252 million gallons, for a drop of 11.1%.

‘Diesel consumption continued to decline, reflecting continued weakness in economic activity,’ said Betty T. Yee, chairwoman of the Board of Equalization.


--Ronald D. White