US oil consumption dropped to 25-year low in 2020

US petroleum consumption declined to 18.1 million barrels per day (bpd) last year, the lowest level in 25 years, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday.

Petroleum consumption in the transportation sector plunged by a record-breaking 15% in 2020 compared to a year earlier. Oil consumption declined in every single energy-consuming sector, the EIA said in new estimates of US petroleum products consumption by source and sector for last year.  

Lockdowns and other measures to contain COVID across the United States in 2020 were the key reason for lower petroleum consumption, especially in the transportation sector where consumption of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel plunged.

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Consumption of the most consumed petroleum product in the US, motor gasoline, slumped by 14% to 8 million bpd last year, which was the lowest level of gasoline consumption in the country since 1997, EIA data showed. Gasoline accounted for as much as 44% of total US petroleum consumption last year. The transportation sector makes up 96% of the motor gasoline consumption, while the industrial and commercial sectors consume the rest.

Diesel fuel consumption also fell, by 8% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Diesel accounted for 21% of US petroleum consumption last year. Typically, over three-quarters of all diesel fuel is used by trucks, ships, and trains in the transportation sector.

Jet fuel consumption saw the steepest decline, by 62%, to levels last seen in 1983. Jet fuel and aviation gasoline accounted for 6% of total US petroleum consumption last year.

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Overall, EIA estimates showed last month that US consumption of petroleum, natural gas, and coal slumped by 9% in 2020, reaching the lowest level since 1991 and marking the largest annual decrease in US fossil fuel consumption in both absolute and percentage terms since at least 1949. Demand for petroleum products, which accounted for 44% of fossil fuel consumption in the United States, plunged by 13% last year compared to 2019.

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