U.S. motorists have bought less gasoline every week for the past 48 weeks, according to a survey published Wednesday by MasterCard SpendingPulse. At the same time, prices have risen. Those trends should continue, say industry analysts.
_ DEMAND DOWN: The four-week average for gasoline demand dropped by 5.7 percent when compared with the same period last year, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse. Americans are driving less and car engines are slightly more efficient
_ LONG-TERM DECLINE: The survey, based on credit card receipts from service stations around the country, showed average gasoline demand has dropped every week from March 25, 2011, to Feb. 17, 2012.
_ GAS PRICE PARADOX: A sustained drop in demand usually pushes prices lower. But gasoline is a little different. It is primarily influenced by the price of crude oil, which refineries use to make gasoline and other fuels. Oil prices have been climbing since last year thanks to rising demand from China and other emerging nations. Last year's Arab spring and growing tensions over Iran's nuclear program also raised concerns about the security of oil supplies. Gasoline prices now average $3.579 per gallon in the U.S., up 40.8 cents from the same time last year. Pump prices are expected to peak at about $4.25 a gallon this spring.