U.S. gasoline demand fell by 1.3 percent to a ten-year low for the month of August, thanks to consumer sentiment that is still stalled even as industry demand for diesel fuel shot up by 10.8 percent, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). On a year-to-date basis, demand for gas was two percent lower than in 2010.

API chief economist, John Felmy, released a statement claiming the economy is to blame for weak demand for gas:

The U.S. economy is still struggling. Retail sales are weak, and we're seeing a reflection of that in the gasoline demand numbers. The rise in distillate demand accords with data that suggest modest growth in manufacturing, but consumers remain cautious.

Despite the dip in gas demand, U.S. refinery production of the fuel was up 0.6 percent over August 2010 and hit a record high for the first eight months of the year. Meanwhile, production of diesel fuel set an all-time record for August. Here's one bit of positive news from the API: At 1.6 million barrels per day, total petroleum imports fell by 11 percent for August, hitting a 14-year low. Let's hope that trend continues.

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Gasoline demand weak; total petroleum demand up slightly

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2011 – Total petroleum deliveries (a measure of demand) rose slightly in August (to 19.7 million barrels a day) compared with August a year ago, with demand for gasoline and distillates moving in opposite directions. Gasoline demand fell by 1.3 percent to a 10-year low for the month while distillate demand rose by 10.8 percent. On a year-to-date basis, gasoline demand was two percent lower than in 2010.

"The U.S. economy is still struggling," said API chief economist John Felmy. "Retail sales are weak, and we're seeing a reflection of that in the gasoline demand numbers. The rise in distillate demand accords with data that suggest modest growth in manufacturing, but consumers remain cautious."

Despite the dip in gasoline demand, U.S. refinery production of gasoline was up 0.6 percent over August 2010 and was higher for the first eight months of the year than any previous January-through-August period. Production of distillate fuel and jet fuel were also up, with distillate fuel production setting a record for any August and for any year to date. Refinery inputs remained over 15 thousand barrels per day for the third month in a row but were lower than in August a year ago.

At 1.6 million barrels per day, total imports of petroleum products were down from last year by 11.0 percent to a 14-year low for August. Crude imports fell by 1.8 percent to 9.4 million barrels per day. Canadian imports of crude oil showed a 7.0 percent jump from last year to average 2.1 million barrels per day for August.

Crude oil production fell to a three-year low for the month, slipping to its lowest level in 2011 to 5.1 million barrels per day. However, year to date, crude production was higher by 1.1 percent compared with 2010. Production in the lower-48 states was down by 6.3 percent. According to Baker Hughes Inc., total oil and gas rigs jumped by 57 to 1,957, a three-year high.

For the third time this year, crude oil stocks showed year-over-year declines, yet this stock level was still the second highest for any August since 1990, after August 2010. Total stocks of oil and products were down 6.5 percent from last year and down 0.7 percent from June 2011 levels. Motor gasoline stocks fell on a monthly and yearly basis to 210.0 million barrels, but they still were the second-highest for the month of August since 1998. Distillate fuel stocks rose from July levels but were down from last August by 8.0 percent.

API represents more than 480 oil and natural gas companies, leaders of a technology-driven industry that supplies most of America's energy, supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, delivers more than $86 million a day in revenue to our government, and, since 2000, has invested over $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.

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