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(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)
By John Kemp
LONDON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Gasoline sales to U.S. motorists rose by more than 5 percent in July compared with the same month a year before, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Gasoline sales are rising at the fastest year-over-year rates for more than 14 years as demand surges.
Continued economic expansion, rising employment and cheaper fuel are putting a record volume of traffic on U.S. roads as well as encouraging motorists to upgrade to larger and more fuel hungry vehicles.
Gasoline sales were up 5.1 percent in July 2015 compared with July 2014, according to the EIA's Prime Supplier Report published on Tuesday (link.reuters.com/pyv65w).
Sales for the first seven months as a whole were up 4.4 percent compared with 2014 (link.reuters.com/myv65w).
The Prime Supplier Report is based on a census of around 200 firms that produce, import or transport across state boundaries selected fuels and sell the products to local distributors, local retailers or end users.
Prime Suppliers account for substantially all fuel delivered to local distributors, retailers and end users in the United States so the census provides a comprehensive picture of demand.
Fuel consumption is being boosted by more traffic on the roads. Vehicle-miles travelled were up 3 percent in the first half of the year compared with 2014, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Motorists are also opting for larger vehicles. Car sales fell almost 3 percent in the first eight months of 2015 but sales of light trucks, which include sport utility vehicles, surged by 10 percent, according to WardsAuto.
Light trucks typically use nearly 40 percent more fuel for the same journey, according to U.S. government statistics, so the changed sales mix is boosting consumption ("Summary of fuel economy performance" 2014).
Fuel sales in California, where gasoline prices have jumped sharply as a result of refinery problems, have lagged the rest of the nation.
Gasoline sales in the state for the first seven months rose by 4 percent, compared with a nationwide average of 4.4 percent.
In North Dakota and Oklahoma, where state economies have been hit by the downturn in oil and gas drilling, fuel sales have actually fallen compared with 2014.
But for the country as a whole, prime suppliers' gasoline sales volumes are rising at the fastest year over year rate since 2001 and before that the late 1980s (link.reuters.com/ryv65w). (Editing by David Evans)