Report: Gasoline consumption in Ore., Wash. at 50-year lows

Retail gas prices in Orlando jumped 10 cents from last week to $3.31 per gallon.

Gasoline consumption in Oregon and Washington last year fell to its lowest point in 50 years, according to the Seattle-based Sightline Institute.

Gasoline consumption in Oregon and Washington last year fell to its lowest point in 50 years and is poised to drop even further this year, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The Seattle-based Sightline Institute found that Oregon residents last year averaged 7.1 gallons per week while Washington residents averaged 7.3 gallons โ€” the lowest per-person levels in 50 years.

The nonprofit group's early data for 2012 suggests consumption could drop below a gallon per day. In 1978, at the height of the nation's gasoline frenzy, per-day consumption peaked at a gallon-and-a-half per day.

The drop is attributed largely to a sharp decline in per-capita driving.

Over the last 10 years, vehicle mileage per capita on state-owned roads in Oregon and Washington has fallen by 13 percent. The drop has been gradual enough to go largely unnoticed, but has had a dramatic effect on driving habits, Sightline reports.

"It's as if every driver left their car in the garage for a month and a half each year," the report states. "These per-capita declines have offset population growth, leading to a virtual flat-lining of total driving on state roads for most of the last decade."

A major contributor to the driving decline has been the precipitous rise of gasoline prices. Fuel use in the Pacific Northwest crested in 2002 and fluctuated through 2007, but when fuel prices spiked in 2008, annual consumption began a noticeable decline.

The report also noted how drivers education classes have become less convenient and more expensive in the past decade, leading to a reduced interest in driving among young people.

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