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Imperfect Price-Reversibility of U.S. Gasoline Demand: Asymmetric Responses to Price Increases and Declines

This paper describes a framework for analyzing the imperfect pricereversibility ("hysteresis") of oil demand. The oil demand reductions following the oil price increases of the 1970s will not be completely reversed by the price cuts of the 1980s, nor is it necessarily true that these partial demand reversals themselves will be reversed exactly by future price increases. We decompose price into three monotonic series: price increases to maximum historic levels, price cuts, and price recoveries (increases below historic highs). We would expect that the response to price cuts wouldbe no greater than to price recoveries, which in turn would be no greater than for increases in maximum historic price. For evidence of imperfect price-reversibility, we test econometrically the following U.S. data: vehicle miles per driver,the fuel efficiency of the automobile fleet, and gasoline demand per driver. In each case, our econometric results allow us to reject the hypothesis of perfect price-reversibility. The data show smaller response to price cuts than to priceincreases.This has dramatic implications for projections of gasoline and oil demand, especially under low-price assumptions.

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Energy Specializations: Petroleum – Markets and Prices for Crude Oil and Products; Energy Modeling – Energy Data, Modeling, and Policy Analysis

JEL Codes:
L13 - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
E61 - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination

Keywords: Gasoline demand, US, Imperfect Price-reversibility, Asymmetry

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol13-No4-10

Published in Volume 13, Number 4 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.