In this holiday season, motorists are willing to travel and buy more gasoline.
That's another hopeful sign for the recovery, though it was tempered by a drop in diesel use, reflecting the still soft economy.
A batch of energy figures released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration and the American Petroleum Institute show gasoline demand up by 1 to 1.5 percent overall as gasoline consumption has strengthened in recent months, reversing declines in 2008 and earlier this year.
Demand for gasoline has been gathering strength since spring even though gasoline prices are at a nationwide average of $2.59, up nearly $1 a gallon from a year ago, but far less than the record $4.11 per gallon set in July 2008.
The record prices and growing weakness in the economy had consumers scaling back gasoline use.
The Federal Highway Administration, which keeps tracks of miles traveled in the United States, is now posting increases in travel after a series of monthly declines. The September figures, the latest available, were up 2.5 percent, or 5.8 billion miles.
Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA, said the group expects 77.7 million road trips for the upcoming holidays, a 4.4 percent jump from a year ago.
"We are starting to see signs of a re-energized interest in travel," he said.
That interest, however, could be favoring road trips. In another sign that the economy isn't out of the woods, the Air Transport Association, which represents 90 percent of U.S. airlines, last week said it expected a million fewer passengers, a trend it has seen through the year.
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