More-stringent vehicle fuel economy standards will contribute to a decline in gasoline consumption through 2040, the US Energy Information Administration projected in the reference case in its Annual Energy Outlook 2014.
A primary cause of the decrease will be standards that, based on National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, will require new light-duty vehicles to average 49 mpg in vehicle model year 2025, compared with their current compliance estimate of about 33 mpg in model year 2012.
The reference case also projects an increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) that, all else equal, would increase fuel consumption. However, higher fuel efficiency standards would more than offset this increase to result in an overall decline in gasoline consumption.
In contrast to the projected decline in gasoline use, a large increase in heavy-duty VMT will lead to an increase in consumption of diesel fuel, even as heavy-duty vehicle fuel economy increases in response to EPA fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards. New refinery projects are expected to focus on shifting production from gasoline to distillate fuels to meet growing domestic and global demand for diesel.
In addition to meeting US demand, refineries will continue to export finished products internationally throughout the projection. The US became a net exporter of finished products in 2011, and net product exports will expand in the reference case through 2040.
EIA notes that its projections for gasoline and diesel use in the reference case reflect current laws and policies, including fuel efficiency standards that have already been issued as final rules; and that further efficiency standards and changes in travel behavior are essential uncertainties that could result in future fuel use being different from the reference case projections.