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Pandemic Holiday to See a Quarter Less Drivers on the Road


By Jeffrey Bair

(Bloomberg) The number of Americans taking road trips this Christmas is poised for a slump of as much as 25%, with many staying home amid soaring coronavirus cases, according to GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan.

The estimate, based on a survey of over 1,800 people, provides more evidence of declining demand for gasoline during the latest wave of the pandemic. Consumption that’s near the lowest level since June will likely reach a new trough around New Year’s Day, DeHaan, the fuel market research firm’s head of petroleum analysis, said Tuesday.

Stricter measures to contain the pandemic in several parts of the country are a reminder that a return to normalcy will still take months, even as inoculations against the virus have started this week.

Need for gasoline falling before holidays

Of those getting out of the house during the holiday, about 27% plan to drive for less than an hour, 32% will be in the car for one to three hours, and 39% plan to cross state lines, DeHaan said. GasBuddy didn’t have any estimate on miles traveled.

The silver lining for those who do hit the road is that they’ll pay an average $2.19 per gallon on December 25, according to the GasBuddy report released Tuesday. That would mark the second-lowest national average price since 2010, bested only by a low of $2 a gallon during the 2015 oil slump.

Gasoline demand in the U.S. has dropped by 17% since mid-August, to 7.6 million barrels a day in the week ended Dec. 4, according to Energy Information Administration data. It’s seasonally at its lowest level since the mid-1990s.



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