Is gas guzzling over in the U.S.?

The United States used more gasoline than ever in 2007 and far more than any other country. It seemed as if America’s growing appetite for gas would go on forever.

Well, it won't — and things may never be the same.

Gasoline consumption has been down the last two years, in part because of the recession. Even when the economy picks up, three underlying trends mean the U.S. might never use as much gas again:

• New standards for cars and light trucks, including SUVs, will make U.S. vehicles more fuel-efficient.

• The growth in the number of U.S. vehicles, after surging the last 30 years, is likely to plateau. The country now has more than four vehicles for every five people, including children.

• Alternative fuels will grow enough to cover increased fuel needs.

As a result, the federal Energy Information Administration predicts that 2007 was the peak year for U.S. gasoline demand. Even in 2035, the last year of the latest long-term projections, motorists are expected to use less gasoline than they are now.

As unexpected as this trend was, there is widespread agreement that it is right.

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