California Walking?

Gasoline prices may be changing driving habits

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Even though California grew by an estimated 539,000 new residents in 2004, its gasoline consumption did not increaseand may have even declined slightly.

"Until now, we've had only anecdotal evidence that high gas prices are influencing the behavior of California drivers," said Claudia Chandler, assistant executive director of the California Energy Commission. "These numbers may indicate that Californians are using less fuel than they did a year ago."

Energy Commission staff compared gasoline sales [image-nocss] from the first four months of 2004 with sales from the same four months of this year, using records of taxes collected on gasoline by the California Board of Equalization. The analysis indicates that gasoline sales dropped roughly a half of one percent from the same time period in 2004.

For the week ending Monday, Aug. 8, the average retail price for regular gasoline in California was $2.60 a gallon. "The average retail price of regular for the entire year of 2004 was $2.12 a gallon," said Chandler. "At these prices, consumers seem to be looking for ways to use less gas and cut their fuel costs."

On its Web site, the Energy Commission suggests ways to save money at the pump. Californians can save as much as 20%, for example, by shopping wisely. Buy from stations in your area with the lowest prices, it suggests. Fuel prices can vary widely within a local area. By supporting those dealers with the lowest prices, consumers can force other stations to be competitive, which helps to bring the cost of gasoline down, according to the commission.

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