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Is this a case of "OPEG giveth and OPEC taketh away?" That's a legitimate question after average new-car fuel economy in the US, which had been on a bit of a downswing late last year, perked up a bit last month. And the culprit/benefactor may have been higher gas prices. Toyota Priuses for everyone!

US new cars in January averaged 25.4 miles per gallon, says the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). That marks a 0.3 mpg increase from December, but it's still a decline from August 2014's apex of 25.8 mpg. Looking at the bigger picture, average fuel economy is up a solid 20 percent since UMTRI started tracking such figures in their current form about seven years ago, so things are obviously moving in the right direction.

How sales of advanced-powertrain vehicles played into all of this remains to be seen, but gas prices seemed to have played a part in getting Americans to step back from the gas guzzlers a tad. Average gas prices are at about $2.11 a gallon, up about seven cents a gallon from a week ago, though still down almost a dime a gallon from a month ago, according to AAA.

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