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NATIONAL REPORT -- Consumers have determined there's only one way to combat increasing gasoline prices: consume less fuel.
According to a just released MasterCard SpendingPulse study, gasoline consumption has been dropping rapidly. During a 52-week period ending recently, U.S. gasoline consumption dropped by 4.2 billion gallons, or 3 percent, vs. the previous one-year period.
A current national average of $3.89 per gallon is a primary reason for declined consumption as consumers make fewer shopping and restaurant trips. However, the Associated Press also hypothesized that another reason was consumers' desires to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.
The average car now achieves almost 24 miles per gallon, compared to 20 mpg in 2008, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said.
John Gamel, who oversees MasterCard SpendingPulse's weekly consumption report, said to expect fuel efficient vehicle sales to continue to be robust.
"People have gotten used to elevated prices, and they've made their long-term purchases, he told the AP."They're going to be using less fuel."
In a survey conducted last summer, J.D. Power and Associates even went as far to say that consumers now care more about whether a car receives good gas mileage than reliability, looks of a vehicle or price of a car.
Experts think declining gas consumption is a trend, not an anomaly. "I'd expect to see lower gasoline consumption for several years to come," Ken Medlock, Rice University energy expert, told the news outlet.
Medlock added that he thinks high gas prices, combined with modest economic growth will force American to watch their gas consumption habits for at least the near-term future.