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Today in Energy

August 14, 2019

State-level average annual gasoline expenditures per capita ranged from $400 to $1,400

U.S. motor gasoline expenditures per capita
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Energy Data System

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) new Key Statistics and Indicators section of the State Energy Data System (SEDS) show that nominal per capita U.S. motor gasoline expenditures (the amount of money spent to consume motor gasoline in the United States) averaged $1,072 in 2017, an 11% increase from 2016 and the first annual increase since its peak of more than $1,500 in 2012. Wyoming had the largest average motor gasoline expenditures per capita of any state in 2017 at $1,441, while New York had the smallest of any state at $708. Average expenditures in the District of Columbia were lower than all states at $395.

Total U.S. motor gasoline expenditures were $348 billion in 2017, an increase of 12% from the previous year. The increase was primarily caused by an increase in the U.S. average price of motor gasoline, which more than offset a 0.2% decrease in U.S. gasoline consumption from the previous year. The U.S. price of motor gasoline in 2017 averaged $2.44 per gallon (not including local taxes), a 12% increase from 2016.

motor gasoline expenditures and consumption per capita
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Energy Data System
Note: SEDS expenditures per capita data adjusted to account for general inflation.

Accounting for general inflation, U.S. motor gasoline expenditures per capita were relatively low in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s before increasing to a high of $1,650 in 2008. U.S. motor gasoline expenditures decreased each year from 2011 through 2016 before increasing slightly in 2017.

States such as Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Montana have significantly higher motor gasoline expenditures per capita than the U.S. average. These states tend to have relatively small, less dense populations and less access to alternative forms of transportation that are common in urban areas. These states are also among the highest in vehicle miles traveled per capita. Individuals in Wyoming spent more for motor gasoline in every year since 1970, the earliest year EIA has recorded, except in 2014 when individuals in North Dakota spent more.

People in more densely populated areas, such as the District of Columbia, New York, Rhode Island, and Illinois tend to spend less in total for motor gasoline. These areas have more access to alternative modes of transportation and mass transit, and dense development makes walking and biking more feasible, which reduces motor gasoline consumption per capita. These factors are especially evident in the District of Columbia, which has seen significantly lower motor gasoline consumption per capita since the early 2000s with additions to its public transportation infrastructure.

U.S. motor gasoline prices
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Energy Data System
Note: SEDS price data (in dollars per million British thermal units) are converted to dollars per gallon and do not include local taxes.

Differences in motor gasoline prices across states tend to have a limited effect on relative patterns of motor gasoline consumption. Hawaii, despite typically having the highest average motor gasoline prices, is near the national average for motor gasoline expenditures per capita. In contrast, Alabama and Mississippi, the states with the two lowest average motor gasoline prices in 2017, are both among the top 10 states with the highest motor gasoline expenditures per capita.

Principal contributors: Mickey Francis, Emily Miller