Fuel Demand Forecast: 4 Million Fewer Autos on U.S. Roads in 2009

Last Updated Jan 6, 2010 5:42 PM EST

So, how about this for a hint on future demand for fuel? There were four million fewer autos in the United States last year.

In 2009, Americans scrapped 14 million cars and bought 10 million new cars, according to a report by the Earth Policy Institute. Meaning the U.S. fleet is shrinking. Call it Peak Auto. Or as many U.S. refiners have already experienced, shrinking demand for its products.

Earth Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based environmental research organization, points to a number of trends that ultimately created the net loss in cars on U.S. roads. And it's not all about the recession.

Market saturation, ongoing urbanization, economic uncertainty (OK, sounds like recession talk), oil insecurity, rising gas prices, frustration with traffic congestion, concerns about climate and a declining interest in cars among young people were the reasons cited by the non-profit organization.

The young person's apathy towards driving provides an further fodder for peak demand. The number of teenagers with licenses peaked at 12 million in 1978 and has been in decline ever since, according to the organization's data. Despite the largest U.S. teenage population ever (17.7 million in 2007), the number licenses issued to this demographic is just under 10 million.