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    Gasoline Demand Soars

    EIA expects U.S. retail gasoline prices to rise 15 or 16 cents.

    NEW YORK -- U.S. drivers are burning up gasoline at a rapid pace, cutting down supplies during a time of year that they normally grow as travelers choose the highway over the runway, energy analysts said yesterday.

    Gasoline consumption over the past four weeks has averaged 8.374 million barrels per day (bpd), 2.5 percent above the same period last year, while jet fuel demand has averaged 9 percent below last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    The strong gasoline demand, bolstered by the increasing popularity of gas-guzzling Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), mostly mild winter weather and lower pump prices, has helped boost petroleum prices, hit by the economic recession and low home heating oil use.

    "Gasoline demand has been a very strong element," said John Cogan, downstream analyst for the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which expects U.S. gasoline demand in 2002 to average 2.4 percent higher than last year, even as demand for other products declines.

    Supply reports released by the EIA and American Petroleum Institute (API) for last week each showed large declines in U.S. gasoline stockpiles, with the EIA report showing a decline of 1.1 million barrels during the week ended Feb. 22

    The decline in supply is abnormal for this time of the year, when gasoline stocks are normally built up for the spring and summer, when vacationers take more road trips. The EIA said it expects U.S. retail gasoline prices to rise 15 or 16 cents by late spring and average roughly $1.25 a gallon through summer driving season, as the strong demand melds with stronger crude oil prices and a switch-over by refiners to costlier summer-grade gasoline formulas.

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