Two years after the start of the economic downturn, Americans continue to use significantly less oil than previously.
According to the US Department of Energy, oil consumption peaked in May, 2006 at 14.2 million barrels per day. By late 2009, consumption had fallen 27% to 10.3 million barrels per day. Since then, usage has rebounded to 12.4 million barrels per day. That level is still well below the 2006 high, and it is likely to fall again if economists are right and a second leg of the recession lies ahead.
Industry and government officials attribute the decline to a number of factors. As industrial output has slowed, factories have used less oil in the production of goods. Americans have also changed our driving habits since gasoline prices spiked in the summer of 2008. Additionally, electricity generated from wind and solar power continue to grow. In 2008 alone, wind generating capacity increased a staggering 60%.
Historically, such downturns have been followed quickly by increases in consumption as the economy has recovered. This time may be different. According to the DOE’s forward looking annual energy outlook, petroleum imports will remain flat or even slightly decline through 2035.
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