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For Immediate Release: August 11, 2005
Media Contact: Claudia Chandler - 916-654-4989

Energy Commission says high gasoline prices may be changing driving habits


Sacramento - Even though California grew by an estimated 539,000 new residents in 2004, its gasoline consumption did not increase - and may have even declined slightly.

"Until now, we've had only anecdotal evidence that high gas prices are influencing the behavior of California drivers," said Claudia Chandler, Assistant Executive Director of the California Energy Commission. "These numbers may indicate that Californians are using less fuel than they did a year ago."

Energy Commission staff compared gasoline sales from the first four months of 2004 with sales from the same four months of this year, using records of taxes collected on gasoline by the California Board of Equalization. The analysis indicates that gasoline sales dropped roughly a half of one percent from the same time period in 2004.

For the week ending Monday, August 8, 2005, the average retail price for regular gasoline in California was $2.60 a gallon. "The average retail price of regular for the entire year of 2004 was $2.12 a gallon," said Chandler. "At these prices, consumers seem to be looking for ways to use less gas and cut their fuel costs."

On its website, the Energy Commission suggests ways to save money at the pump. Californians can save as much as 20 percent, for example, by shopping wisely. Buy from stations in your area with the lowest prices. Fuel prices can vary widely within a local area. By supporting those dealers with the lowest prices, you are forcing other stations to be competitive, which helps to bring the cost of gasoline down. Today's gasolines provide very similar engine performance (although some brands have different gasoline additives that provide other benefits).

Most cars run fine on regular. Check your vehicle owner's manual to find out what's right for your car, but in most cases you can save money by buying regular, which can cost 20 cents less per gallon than premium.

Consider carpooling. Sharing a ride to work with a friend or two effectively doubles your fuel economy for the trip and allows you to use the diamond lane. Public transportation can be a less expensive option as well.

Keeping your car well maintained is especially important for fuel economy. Some overlooked maintenance items, such as a dirty air filter and under-inflated tires, can increase your fuel cost up to 13 percent. When replacing your tires, replace them with the same make and model as the tires that were on your vehicle when it was new. They were selected by the manufacturer to provide the best gas mileage.

When it comes time to purchase a new vehicle, consider energy efficiency. Think about buying a hybrid-electric, a diesel vehicle, or even a motorcycle, you could cut your gasoline bill by as much as 50 percent. The next best option is to purchase the most fuel-efficient vehicle within the class of vehicles you are considering.

The Energy Commission's website has more gas-saving tips at http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/transportation/conventional/tips.html

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