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U.S. Raises Gasoline Demand Forecast and Lowers Price for 2012

The U.S. Energy Department raised its estimate for gasoline demand in 2012 and decreased its forecast for prices at the pump.

Gasoline consumption will average 8.73 million barrels a day, down from 8.75 million in 2011, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said today in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Last month’s projection was 8.72 million barrels.

The department estimated 2013 consumption at 8.73 million barrels a day, down from the October forecast of 8.74 million.

Regular-grade gasoline will average $3.64 a gallon this year, down from $3.65 in last month’s forecast. Prices may average $3.44 in 2013, in line with the previous estimate.

Distillate demand, including heating oil and diesel, will fall drop 3.1 percent to 3.78 million barrels a day this year, down from the October forecast of 3.79 million. Consumption next year is estimated to be 3.84 million barrels daily, unchanged from last month’s outlook.

The department expects households heating primarily with oil to spend an average of about $2,526 between Oct. 1 and March 31. That’s 21 percent higher than last winter as a result of a 3.3 percent increase in prices and a 17 percent increase in consumption. The October forecast projected spending would rise 20 percent to an average of about $2,494, as prices rose 1.8 percent and fuel use increased 17 percent.

About 6 percent of U.S. households depend on heating oil for space heating. The Northeast accounts for about 80 percent of these households.

Total U.S. fuel demand may drop 1.5 percent to 18.66 million barrels a day this year, down from October’s outlook of 18.67 million.

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