The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the national average for premium gas is now $4.48 a gallon, some 40 cents more than regular, and that drivers are just refusing to buy it.

Truth be told, most people who've been buying premium probably don't need it at all, but even among those whose engines specify 91 or higher, demand is way down. The Freep says it's actually at its lowest level since 1984. The higher-octane fuel accounted for 16% of gas sales at the height of its demand in 1997. Last month it was half that at 8%. Demand for premium is so low that in some areas it takes gas stations 3 or 4 weeks to sell out a shipment of premium compared to just a couple of days for regular.

Experts say that demand is dropping for a number of reasons. People are switching from luxury and performance models to more efficient cars that only require regular. Many owners of premium-only vehicles are just driving less. And some people who choose to buy premium despite their cars and trucks only requiring regular are just wising up. When looking at the situation, Consumer Reports has gone so far as to say that "many cars that are supposed to only use premium perform just as well with regular." So keep those extra bucks in your pocket and go with the 87 for now. Just don't yell at us if something starts knocking underhood.

NOTE: This picture was taken on March 3, 2007... in Nevada.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]