These Charts Better Not Reflect The True State Of The US Economy

Tyler Durden's picture

Lately, when it comes to obtaining an accurate sense of the true state of the US economy, it is as difficult if not more than analyzing the openly-manipulated Chinese data. On one hand, the Fed-juiced market, which has lost its discounting powers, no longer reflects the current or future economic (or corporate) fundamentals, on the other, massive seasonal aberrations, whether purposeful or accidental, have made a mockery of any data series, be it jobs, manufacturing, retail sales, or housing. On the other, the administration - still stuck in the worst economic "recovery" since the Great Depression - is desperate to telegraph an improving economy, most evident in the months leading up to the presidential election, which makes taking any data at face value problematic and naive at best. Yet even the openly-contradicting Chinese data manipulation has its Achilles heel in the form of monthly electricity consumption (and to a lesser extent, production) updates.

So what is the US equivalent of Chinese electricity consumption data? We believe it may be the little-tracked, and thus not nearly as "adjusted" weekly updates from the Energy Information Administration, whose data on barrels of US product supplied of both total petroleum products and just gasoline are as indicative of the true state of the energy-hungry beating heart of the US economy as any other data set, and is likely a far more accurate representation of what is really going on between the lines.

Sadly, if that is indeed the case, then the disconnect between propaganda myth and reality is about as big as can be, since on a blended 52-week average basis, the total product supplied of motor gasoline is back to 2003 levels (black line on chart below). However, where it gets really scary is looking at the total product supplied category, which includes gasoline and all other product such as heating oil, propane, and kerosene. As the chart below shows, the US economy, whose GDP we are led to believe has never been higher, now has the same total consumption of all petroleum products (red line) as it did... back in 1997!

Source: Weekly US Product of Finished Motor Gasoline (EIA), and Total Petroleum Product (EIA).

The same disturbing story is revealed when looking at various other EIA charts of sales, and thus demand, such as this one showing that 52 week average sales and deliveries of gasoline by prime supplier in the US has also tumbled to levels last seen in the late 90's.

Source: Total Gasoline All Sales/Deliveries by Prime Supplier (EIA)

But maybe it is just the usage of more efficient modes of transportation, and a higher MPG as more Americans shift to electric cars and some such. Sure, maybe. Of course, that would not explain why the total miles driven has hardly budged for the last decade, and is far off the all time high recorded when the economy was indeed humming on all fours, if moments before it imploded in 2007...

Source: Moving 12-Month Total Vehicle Miles Traveled (St. Louis Fed FRED)

... but the biggest question we have is just how did the biggest boost in energy and engine efficiency occurred at two key junctions: Just after the Lehman Failure, and just after the US downgrade and the first debt ceiling crisis, when the total sales of gasoline by US retailers literally went off the charts, and which data series is now languishing at levels not seen since the 1970s (unfortunately we can only estimate: not even the EIA's data set goes back that far).

Source: US Total Gasoline Retail Sales by Refiners (EIA)

Perhaps, just perhaps, Occam's razor applies in this situation as well, and the collapse in energy demand in the US has little to do with MPG efficiency, higher productivity, and throughput mysteriously achieved just when the entire economy was imploding in the months after the Lehman failure, and despite the re-emerging proliferation of cheap Fed debt funded SUVs and small trucks (discussed here), and everything to do with the US consumer being slowly but surely tapped out?

Of course, if that is the case, than the US economy is far, far weaker than even we could have surmised, although it certainly would explain the desperation with which the Fed is doing everything in its power to preserve the levitation of the S&P, i.e., the confidence that all is well despite all signs to the contrary. Because should the market finally be allowed to reflect the underlying economy - not the administration represented economy, but the real one - then everything that has transpired in the past five years will be child's play compared to what's coming.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
ParkAveFlasher's picture

Dying old nag pattern.  Classic.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

I would like to see if there is a breakdown between freight/commercial miles and personal/commutation miles.  

To help distinguish the key driver

Muppet Pimp's picture

Regarding the muppet pimp household, we used to each commute 28 miles each way (28*4=112 mpd / 20mpg = 5.6gpd *5days x 4.3 weeks =  120.4 gpm) and we had another recrational activity which used +/- 120 gallons about once per month.  Add in running some errands at say another 20 gallons would be 260 gallons per month of gasoline usage pre-recession.  Post-recession we no longer have a recreational vehicle and moved close to our jobs and each drive about 5 miles each way (5*4 = 20 mpd / 20mpg = 1 gpd x 5days x 4.3 = 21.5 gpm)  Add 20 gallons for errands and we burn 41.5 gpm now.  41.5/260= .16. 

So in our particular case, which is extreme, we now burn 16% of the gasoline we used to burn.  But we also spend nearly every dollar we make now (including all savings achieved) hiring contractors fixing up our fixer upper home.  So in agreement with the above comment, we would need to see a better breakdown of domestic freight/commercial fuel usage to draw any conclusions - and they use diesel (trucks) and bunker (ships), so we will not see that in the gasoline figures.

Also anecdotal but we are not aware of anyone who burns more gasoline than pre-recession and many others who burn less.  Having your entire livelihood crater before your eyes coupled record high gas prices seems to affect the decision making process during rebuild time imo.  Certainly we are not alone in this line of thinking.  All anecdotal, obv.

economics9698's picture

Bring back the 426 hemi and our problems are solved.

Richard Chesler's picture

Government statistics, as authentic as Obozo's birth certificate.

markmotive's picture

"If the American People allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation? and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the People of all their Property until their Children will wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered."

—Thomas Jefferson

Documentary: Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve

palmereldritch's picture

Have they established a Bitcoin to Ammo Sales Index on Forex?

If not, they should. They can call it BITBULLET

GetZeeGold's picture



Word is the DHS has 2 billion bitbullets on order. Not sure what they're planning on doing with them....and they ain't sayin.

knightowl77's picture


ATF Seeks 'Massive' Database of Personal Info: 'Assets, Relatives, Associates and More"

It just keeps getting better and better

James_Cole's picture

Nothing depressing in these charts, all good news.

Inevitably oil consumpution was going to become unaffordable at these levels for the majority and it looks like people have begun adjusting - either willingly or unwillingly.

The sooner people move away from oil the better.  

TwoShortPlanks's picture

There is only one graph for me, plot;
1. Money Velocity
2. Monetary Base
3. Consumer Credit
4. Public debt
5. Gold Spot (just for kicks)

All on a single graph, to see that this destruction of demand we are seeing is merely a consumer & public debt asphyxiation of the global producer-consumer overshoot which needed to be reigned back in.

Quantum Keynesianism isn't free either.

The graphs above give additional weighting to this notion.

Hive Raid's picture

Yeah it's cool, we're a service economy now. Show me deliveries of Starbucks, Tony Robbins courses, and latex gloves.


Things are looking up!


unrulian's picture


Boris Alatovkrap's picture

"Best defense is good offense"

— Mel, the Cook

America Sitcom, Alice

fockewulf190's picture

One Silver Eagle = 1 tank of gas.  It´s coming so stack that  Phyzz!

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

1 tank of gas = 2 litre of Stolichnaya. Time to stock up on libation.

vamoose1's picture

  that   flat   faced   fuck   flaherty should   have   his   sorry   ass   poleaxed  into  the    rideau....  for   jesus   sakes   people   the   royal   bank   has    close   to   ten  trillion   dollars   of   derivatives    which  is  hundreds  of   times   its   equity   ....forget   taking   down a   bg  five   bank   this   derivative  exosure  could   take  the   fucking   country  in   20   minutes.  

   i  deeply   thank  the   toronto   star   for  this    signal   public   service    maybe   the   star   man   could   look  at   the   derivative   exposure  of  our   banks    and   write   about  that

    you   fat   faced   fuck   cdic   will  protect under  100  k   will  they    you  two fat   faced   cocksucker

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Run on bank will collapse even too big is to fail. Banker and politician is confidence man, but even incompetent con man is know only trade asset is trust. Do citizenry trust bank? No, did not think is so.

philgramm's picture

It seems that TPTB have given us the perpetual growth paradigm and they only speak in this particular paradigm and language. The rest of us accept this paradigm as valid and real. It appears to me that what we as citizens of the world need to do is to not speak in the language that does not serve our human interests.

Growing economy = perpetual growth = perpetually growing consumption. Why do we need this paradigm? Does it serve our best interest to consume more so we can improve the economy? Can we not be just as happy consuming less, taking more time off, enjoying time with family, friend's, hobbies, nature etc? Money is just another currency. Love, respect, family, friends, adaptability, skills are also currencies. The monetization of everything around us has blinded us to all the types of growth that can occur in our lives outside of the growth of money and material wealth. It is not in our interest to engage in the language that enslaved us. I do not believe that TPTB are evil. I believe they first enslaved themselves to this paradigm. Then, through, the levers of power they have enslaved the rest of us. It is our responsibility to free ourselves by speaking and engaging in a language that doesn't serve the almighty currency of money. In that process we can create individual freedom and subsequently freedom for those who want it. While I love zerogedge I feel that posts like this one make it seem as the "economy" is somehow supremely important in the lives of ordinary citizens of the world. It dies not. It is only one way to perceive the world. Many of the creates thinkers of our time and times past have tried to show us that there is so much more value in the intangible as opposed to the materially tangible. Perhaps the collaLSD of the economy is exactly what we need in order to recognize it was a false paradigm from the start. Sorry for the diatribe. I dont comment often but I feel this is a core issue for humanity.

spinone's picture

Thats not a Jefferson Quote.  Don't believe (and repeat as fact) everything you read on the internet kiddo.

RebelDevil's picture

Even though it's not Jefferson's quote, it's still quite enlightening to the sheeple who are ready to take the red pill.
Does it even matter though? If Jefferson was alive today, I would bet he would say something very similar to that.
Positive propaganda is powerful too! Awesome.

TuffsNotEnuff's picture

Plainly authentic. Routine. No problemo!

Same as the simple, no issues Hawaiian birth certificate for President Obama.

And by the way, Obama would have been a natural born American citizen even if his mother, Ann, had gone to Kenya and given birth there. He would certainly have been eligible to hold the office of the presidency.

The paranoid-racist denial fantasy is what shocks. So many people, so damned stupidly crazy.

tenpanhandle's picture

You are wrong and your prejudicial ending statement brands you as the racist.  Wasn't it you girlfriend Hilliary who said "dissent is patriotic"?  Since when is believing in the rule of law racist?  FU

SeattleBruce's picture

OK - just 'cause you said so. Have you read up on the USC and SCOTUS decisions on the matter? Or is it racist for me to ask that...Yawn, you're like the boy that cries wolf, only your word is 'racist', isn't it?

BeaverFever's picture

Amazon uses UPS. Never checked out their engines.

GeezerGeek's picture

I once knew this little old lady who would have agreed with you. She was from out west, some place called Pasadena.

Bendromeda Strain's picture

She said, "Put a Dodge in your garage... honey"

stormsailor's picture

a 413 is the gear ratio of the rear end.  dont auto much do you?

A Nanny Moose's picture

Two Twenty, Two Twenty One...whatever it takes.

FeralSerf's picture

What ring and pinion combination gives you that?

413 was the cubic inch displacement of a popular Mopar B engine.


The 413 RB had a 4.1875 inches (106.36 mm) bore and was used from 1959 to 1965 in cars. During that period, it powered almost all Chrysler New Yorker and Imperial models, and was also available on the lesser Chryslers, Dodge Polara, Dodge Monaco, and Plymouth Fury as an alternative to the B-block 383 and/or the 318. It was also fitted to some European cars such as the later Facel Vega Facel II

In the 1959 Chrysler 300E the 413 wedge was fitted with inline dual 4 barrel carburetors; it was factory rated as producing 380 bhp (283 kW) at 5000 rpm and 450 lb·ft (610 N·m) at 3600 rpm.[1] In 1960, a long-tube ram induction system was made standard on the Chrysler 300, it continued as standard on the 1961 300-G, it remained on the option sheets for Chrysler 300s through 1964. In 1962 a special version known as the "Max Wedge" was made available for drag racing and street use, this version produced 420 bhp (313 kW) at 5000 rpm. The 413 remained in use in medium and heavy duty trucks until 1979.

1959–1961 with 4-Barrel Carb Max Brake Horsepower: 355 @ 4600 rpm Max Torque: 525 @ 2800 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 10.0

1959 with 2 × 4-Barrel Carbs Max Brake Horsepower: 380 @ 5000 rpm Max Torque: 450 @ 3600 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 10.0

1960–1961 with 2 × 4-Barrel Carbs Max Brake Horsepower: 375 @ 5000 rpm Max Torque: 495 @ 2800 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 10.0

1962: 1965 with 4-Barrel Carb Max Brake Horsepower: 340 @ 4600 rpm Max Torque: 470 @ 2800 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 10.1

1962 with 2 × 4-Barrel Carbs Max Brake Horsepower: 380 @ 5000 rpm Max Torque: 495 @ 2800 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 10.1

1963: 1965 with 4-Barrel Carb Max Brake Horsepower: 360 @ 4600 rpm Max Torque: 470 @ 2800 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 10.1

1963: 1964 with 2 × 4-Barrel Carbs Max Brake Horsepower: 390 @ 4800 rpm Max Torque: 485 @ 3600 rpm Stroke: 3.75 Bore: 4.1875 Compression: 9.6"


Overfed's picture

But, it was a wedge, not a hemi.

andyupnorth's picture

I would like to see the breakdown between military and civilian.

My belief is that the US military consumes a huge amount of natural ressources.  Could it be that the military is actually cutting down on it consumption?

Quantum Nucleonics's picture

In Team Obama's renewable energy nirvana, the US military no spends $30/gallon on biofuels.  Relative to total consumption, the US military's consumption is pretty small and probably most weighted towards diesel and jet fuel.  Also, remember, US buys a lot from local sources for overseas ops, e.g. they aren't shipping gas to Afghanistan from Texas.

AGuy's picture

its likely a significant fraction of the decline is because americans are driving smaller cars and driving less because of the rising cost of gasoline. I see significantly fewer SUVs on the road today, compared to 2007. Back in 2007 more than half of the cars on the road were SUV. Today less than 15% are SUVs.

JR's picture

In California, when returns from the fuel tax declined because drivers were trying to avoid the higher costs, the state responded with a 10% increase in the excise tax on gasoline.

Conclusion? We work for the government. And they need our money for their priorities.

Society responds to abuse when it reaches a certain point. And that point is fast approaching.

From Bill Bonner today (“The Real Reason There Will Be No 'Recovery' in America”):

Quote --

And now we have proof... that the Internet did not add to the wealth of the US... or apparently anywhere else. From The New Yorker:

For a time, the Labor Department's productivity figures appeared to support the idea of an Internet-based productivity miracle. Between 1996 and 2000, output per hour in the non-farm business sector – the standard measure of labor productivity – grew at an annual rate of 2.75%, well above the 1.5% rate that was seen between 1973 and 1996.

The difference between 1.5% annual productivity growth and 2.75% growth is enormous. With 2.75% growth (assuming higher productivity leads to higher wages), it takes about 26 years for living standards to double. With 1.5% growth, it takes a lot longer – 48 years – for living standards to double...

Since the start of 2005, productivity growth has fallen all the way back to the levels seen before the Web was commercialized, and before smart phones were invented.

During the eight years from 2005-2012, output per hour expanded at an annual rate of just 1.5% – the same as it grew between 1973 and 1996. More recently, productivity growth has been lower still. In 2011, output per hour rose by a mere 0.6%, according to the latest update from the Labor Department, and last year there was more of the same: an increase of just 0.7%. In the last quarter of 2012, output per hour actually fell, at an annual rate of 1.9%. Americans got less productive – or so the figures said...

If the sluggish rates of productivity growth we've seen over the past two years were to persist into the indefinite future, it would take more than a hundred years for output-per-person and living standards to double.

How about that? The Internet. A big dud. A time waster, like television, not a wealth booster, like the internal combustion engine.

Dr Paul Krugman's picture

This is amazing!  You people complain about everything!

A gas tax works quite well - it is apportioned - so if you don't like it, don't drive.

Bearwagon's picture

More like: "Go Fuck YourSelf"

Just for the record

GetZeeGold's picture



Without objection.

DaveyJones's picture

we'll take judicial notice that he is an ignorant asshole

JR's picture

Paul! It’s good to know you're at work, saving the economy, late on Saturday night. I thought you and Ben would still be out celebrating the recovery.