Saturday, May 24, 2008

U.S. Vehicle Miles vs. Real Gasoline Price

by Bill McBride on 5/24/2008 10:31:00 PM

Yesterday the Department of Transportation reported that Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles in March '08 than in March '07. I presented a graph of the moving 12 month total miles driven here.

The following graph compares the year-over-year change in the moving 12 month total vs. the real price of gasoline (source for real prices: EIA). Note: graph uses annual data for real prices prior to 1980.

U.S. Vehicle Miles vs. Real Gasoline Price Click on graph for larger image.

This is only the third time since 1970 that the YoY change in total U.S. miles driven has declined. The previous two times were following the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 - and led to the two most severe U.S. recessions since WWII.

Note that the most recent data from the DOT is for March. According to the EIA, gasoline prices have risen 13% since then! So I'd expect U.S. miles driven to have declined further in April and May.

U.S. Vehicle Miles vs. Real Gasoline Price
Perhaps even more stunning is the real price graph for Diesel (from the EIA). Ouch.