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Triple-I Blog | Based on gas consumption, we are almost back to running at the pre-pandemic / recession level



By Dr. Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist, Insurance Information Institute

U.S. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes comprehensive data on petroleum production, refining and deliveries to users, with some data provided weekly. Gasoline delivered to retailers is not exactly the same as gasoline consumed but it is close. And gasoline that is consumed is not exactly the same as miles driven but it is close. Consequently, these data can indicate how much people are driving, until we are informed about the frequency and severity of collisions. An advantage of tracking these data is still that they are published on time.

As a baseline, consider gasoline delivered during the first 1

2 weeks of 2020, compared to comparable weeks 2019 ( Figure 1 ). While this comparison may be affected by year-on-year price changes as well as weather changes (and possibly other differences between the two periods), we can assume that these differences are small and do not hide trends in the longer term. [19659004] The diagram shows some variation from week to week, but basically the same – or maybe a little less – gas delivered in 2020 towards 2019.

Then the pandemic – and the beginning of the recession caused by the fight against it – occurred. Driving was severely restricted, and car insurance companies introduced premium reimbursement programs to reflect this change. Figure 2 adds to Figure 1 the percentage change in gas supply year over year for the rest of March and throughout April 2020.

However, in May, some states began to relax various restrictions and driving began to return to near pre -pandemic level / recession levels, as Figure 3 shows.

At this time, there is no way to know what caused this peak in gas use, but some speculate that some or all of the following may be responsible:

• States are moving to more permissive locking steps, resulting in more trips, especially to beaches and other outdoor activities

• People who once took public transport do not choose to drive, thus reducing the exposure to the virus which may be the result of mass transit trips

• Warmer weather months are traditionally a time for more driving

• The price of gas continues to be unusually low, which makes driving less heavy than in previous years.


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