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Study: Despite Recent Relief, Americans Spend More on Gas Overall

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As we reported earlier, a sustained decline in U.S. gas prices of late has led to this week’s seven-month low, 11 cents less than motorists were paying the same day a year ago. While this recent period of plummeting pump prices is certainly a relief, an extended timeline tells a seemingly different story about how much we’re spending on fuel.

Related: Gas Prices Are Up, but So Is Average MPG

According to a report released this week by Securing America’s Future Energy, an advocacy group for reducing oil dependency, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average U.S. household spent more than $2,600 on gas in 2013 for a third consecutive year — an all-time high and a 111 percent increase compared with the amount spend a decade earlier.

That spike has occurred despite those households’ non-gas discretionary spending increasing by only 1 percent each year. According to SAFE, a major contributor to that disparity is the continued high price of oil on the worldwide market.

“Closely correlating with global crude oil prices, not domestic crude streams, increased U.S. gasoline spending proves a result of stubbornly high global oil prices and American consumers’ near-complete reliance on oil as a transportation fuel,” SAFE said in a statement.

Other conclusions of the SAFE report are as follows:

  • The burden of higher fuel prices had the greatest impact on lower-income households, with the lowest spending nearly 13 percent of their income on gas compared with 2.5 percent for the highest.
  • The ratio of gas spending to income was greatest in rural Midwestern states and lowest in densely populated coastal states.
  • While increased U.S. oil production has had broad economic benefits for the nation, advantages have not trickled down to the consumer in the form of lower gas prices in the years covered by the study.
  • The close correlation between global crude prices and U.S. pump prices leaves Americans vulnerable to events in the worldwide oil market.

Still, SAFE sees some hope on the horizon if Americans continue to embrace electric vehicles as the price of EVs continues to fall and factors such as range and recharging time continue to improve. Moreover, the report forecasts that the cost of subcompact EVs will be equal to that of their gas-only counterparts within the next two years, increasing buyer incentive.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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