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The History of Fuels Retailing

The first purpose-built, drive-up gas station made its debut over 100 years ago which is one of many significant events and innovations that have shaped the fuels retailing industry.

Published: March 23, 2018

The first purpose-built, drive-up gas station opened in 1913. At the time, there were approximately 500,000 vehicles navigating almost exclusively dirt or gravel roads. Today, there are more than 250 million vehicles traveling on the nation’s 3.98 million miles of paved roadways, with approximately 40 million vehicles fueling up every day.

Here are some of the significant events and innovations that led to the creation of the industry and the shaping of it over the ensuing century.




​1859: The world’s first commercially successful oil well is drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, by “Colonel” Edwin Drake. The first oil pipelines are developed in quick order to move oil from the drill holes to nearby tanks and refineries. Interestingly, the first commercial U.S. oil refinery predates the first oil well. Samuel Kier founded the country’s first oil refinery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, mainly producing kerosene that he dubbed “Carbon Oil.” Pennsylvania remains responsible for more than half of the world’s oil production until the East Texas oil boom began in 1901.

1885: Karl Benz invents the first gasoline-powered automobile (which had only three wheels) in Mannheim, Germany. Over the next three years, it is taken out only for short test drives.

The first petroleum pump is invented by Sylvanus Bowser in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It is used to fill kerosene lamps and stoves.

1888: Bertha Benz, Karl’s wife, takes the first road trip, a 60-plus-mile round trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim to showcase the new Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Along the way, she refuels by purchasing benzene at pharmacies. The still-standing Stadt-Apotheke (Town Pharmacy) in Wiesloch is her first stop and is considered the world’s first filling station. For a number of years, pharmacies continue to sell motor fuels as a side business.

1893: Brothers Charles and Frank Duryea build and test the first American gasoline-powered automobile. They found the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1896 and sell their first vehicles, the Duryea motor wagon. Two months after their first sale, the first U.S. traffic accident is recorded in New York City, when the driver of a new Duryea hits a bicyclist.

1898: John Tokheim conceives and develops the first gas dispenser pump and first underground storage tank.




​1905: In St. Louis, Missouri, Automobile Gasoline Co., a subsidiary of Shell of California, opens what some people consider to be the first U.S. filling station. Others suggest that the first gas station was opened by Socal in Seattle, Washington, in 1907. At these early stations, shopkeepers fill a five-gallon can from behind the store and bring it to the customer’s car to fill it. 

1908: While there are already approximately 300,000 automobiles on the road, the introduction of the first affordable Model T leads to a rapid growth in automobile sales within several years.

1909: The first paved road in the country appears — a one-mile section of concrete road just outside of Detroit, Michigan. A few small side streets in Bellefontaine, Ohio, are paved beginning in 1891.

Reighard’s gas station in Altoona, Pennsylvania, opens. It is the oldest U.S. gas station still in operation.




1910: Gilbert & Barker Manufacturing Co. (now Gilbarco Veeder-Root) manufactures its first gas pump, using a pull-push motion to draw gas from an underground storage tank. A year later, it introduces its first gas measuring pump.

1911: The U.S. Supreme Court declares John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust to be an “unreasonable” monopoly. The trust, which controlled much of the production, transport, refining and retailing of petroleum products in the United States, is broken up into a number of distinct companies, including:

  • Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio), now part of BP 
  • Standard Oil of Indiana (Stanolind), renamed Amoco, now part of Tesoro
  • Standard Oil of New York (Socony), merged with Vacuum, renamed Mobil, now part of ExxonMobil
  • Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), renamed Exxon, now part of ExxonMobil
  • Standard Oil of California (Socal), renamed Chevron, now part of ChevronTexaco
  • Atlantic and Richfield, merged to form Atlantic Richfield (Arco), now part of BP (Atlantic operations were spun off and bought by Sunoco)
  • Standard Oil of Kentucky (Kyso) was acquired by Standard Oil of California, now part of ChevronTexaco
  • Continental Oil Company (Conoco), now part of ConocoPhillips

1913: In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gulf Refining Co. opens the nation’s first drive-up service station, specifically designed to sell fuels and other related products. On its first day, it sells 30 gallons of gasoline at 27 cents per gallon, which equates to $6.39 per gallon in today’s dollars. This is also the first architect-designed station and the first to distribute free road maps. The rest of the decade sees the rapid growth of curbside fueling, with pumps literally on the curb in front of stores or in other highly trafficked areas.

William Burton invents the process of thermal cracking, which doubles the yield of gasoline that can be refined from crude oil. He later serves as president of Standard Oil from 1918 to 1927.

1916: The first canopy is introduced, as Standard Oil of Ohio unveils a prefabricated canopy prototype.

1919: Gasoline finally surpasses the sales of kerosene and becomes the top petroleum product sold in the United States.




1920: In larger cities, fire safety ordinances begin to force curbside fueling stations to close. A 1923 ruling by the New York Supreme Court upholds a Buffalo zoning ordinance that prohibited curbside fueling. Stations transition to lots where drivers pull in off the road, as opposed to fueling on the road, and real estate becomes an important element in developing a property for fueling. Many stores also begin to resemble the houses in the communities around them to help appease zoning concerns.

1921: The Federal Highway Act of 1921 defines and develops the country’s growing highway system.

1924: The first gas credit cards are issued. These cards followed the simple dog-tag style metal plates issued by department stores prior to World War I. The onset of the Great Depression a few years later severely quashed the use of credit cards for several decades.

1925: Major oil company gas stations begin adding oil-change operations. Other additions quickly follow, including grease services and car washes, as well as the sale of tires, batteries and other accessories, making the fueling station a true service station.

1927: The Southland Ice Company introduces the concept of the convenience store in Dallas, Texas. “Uncle Johnny” Jefferson Green, who ran the Southland Ice Dock in the Oak Cliff part of town, realized that customers sometimes needed to buy things such as bread, milk and eggs after the local grocery stores were closed. Unlike the local grocery stores, his store was already open 16 hours a day (7:00 am to 11:00 pm), seven days a week, so he decided to stock a few of those staples in addition to items he was already offering. As the company grows, it changes its store name to reflect its operating hours: 7-Eleven. For the next 30 years, there is no unifying name for this concept, with stores being called “bantams,” “food stores,” “vest-pocket grocery stores,” “midgets,” “dairy stores” or “superettes.”

Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright designs a gas station to be built in Buffalo. The design features two stories, deluxe bathroom facilities, wood-burning fireplaces, a living room en¬closed by glass on the second floor and gravity-fed water tanks hidden on the roof that provided the pressure needed to pump gasoline. He envisions a network of filling stations across the country, but never finds a company willing to fund his dream. A stripped down version of his design is eventually used for a station built it in Cloquet, Minnesota.

Late 1920s: By the end of the decade, 24-hour service stations already are in operation, serving the needs of, among others, the commercial trucking industry. The first 24-hour convenience store didn’t open until 1962 — in Las Vegas, Nevada, naturally.

Also, “trackside operators” appear during the decade, selling fuel to drivers straight from the tank cars parked at railway sidings. By cutting out a link in the distribution chain to reduce costs, these outlets are considered forerunners to today’s low-price, high-volume independents.




1932: Congress enacts the Revenue Tax Act of 1932, establishing a federal excise tax on gasoline. Proceeds of the one-cent-per-gallon tax go into the general fund. The federal tax on gasoline has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1997, with the bulk of revenues going to the highway account. The first state gasoline tax is created in 1919, with Oregon levying a 1-cent-per-gallon tax to fund highway construction.

1937: Is this the first gas price sign? Maryville Oil Co. in Missouri has “The Big Pump,” a giant imitation gas pump that shows the station’s “cut rate” prices. This sign allows prices to be easily seen by drivers before they pull in to the station. Prices per gallon are 7.9 cents for “white,” 9.5 cents for “bronze” and 11.5 cents for “ethyl.” Previously, prices are conveyed via small signs at ground level, usually using sandwich board signs.

1938: Texaco is the first major oil company to develop and market clean restroom facilities. Cleanliness is guaranteed and each station is registered by the company, which employs and trains inspectors. Phillips Petroleum adopts a similar program a year later. Within a few years, however, both programs are dropped.

1939: The shut-off valve is developed by Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., which is the forerunner of today’s cut-off valves.




1947: Frank Urich opens the first modern self-serve gas station, at the corner of Jilson and Atlantic in Los Angeles, California. (The 20-store Hoosier Petroleum Co. tried self-serve in 1930, but the state fire marshal stopped it, calling it a fire hazard.) With the slogan “Save 5 cents, serve yourself, why pay more?” Urich’s station sells more than 500,000 gallons its first month. Urich adds to the excitement by running empty tankers into the station, making it seem like supply was constantly being replenished to meet heavy demand. A number of other independent stations begin to offer self serve, primarily in California, the Southwest and the Southeast, but the total number of stations offering self serve remain less than 3,000 until the early 1970s.




​1950: Frank McNamara and Ralph Schneider introduce the concept of a credit card with their Diners Club Card. In 1958, American Express and BankAmericard are introduced. Today, 75% of all gasoline purchases at convenience stores are paid by credit or debit card.

1956: President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, creating the interstate highway system. Nearly 50,000 miles of interstate highways are constructed; approximately one-quarter of vehicle traffic today is on these roads. These new highway bypasses also changed the fueling landscape, as many small towns and retailers serving those towns become abandoned.

In Corbin, Kentucky, the new I-75 significantly reduces traffic at Harlan Sanders’ Shell station on Route 25, so Harland “Colonel” Sanders changes his business model, closing his stations and seeking opportunities to franchise his station’s unique Kentucky fried chicken recipe along the new superhighways.

1957: The term “convenience store” is used.  It is the earliest known use of this term Also, the first cold weather convenience stores open — with new stores appearing in Washington, DC, and in Denver, Colorado. 




1960: OPEC — the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries — is founded by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. OPEC currently has 14 members — Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea (new in 2017), Gabon (rejoined in 2016), Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela — and they collectively supply about 40% of the world’s crude oil and liquid fuels output, and possess more than three-quarters of the world’s total proven crude oil reserves.

1961: The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) is founded to give the industry a much-needed voice. At the time, total industry sales were an estimated $480 million and very few stores sold fuels; in 2012, industry sales were $700 billion. By 1971, only 6.8% of all convenience stores sold motor fuels; today, 79% of convenience stores sell fuels, and U.S. convenience stores sell an estimated 80% of all the motor fuels purchased in the country.

1964: The first remote self-service gas pumps are introduced on June 10 in Westminster, Colorado. Previously, self-service required an attendant to reset the pumps after each fueling and also collect the money at the fueling island. On that first day, fuels sales only total 124 gallons, but this event ushers in the modern era of self-serve fueling. Total, convenience stores sell that much fuel every 0.02 seconds.

1965: The Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Act establishes the country’s first emissions standards.

1967: The New York Supreme Court strikes down a law prohibiting self-service fueling. Previously, only those who had received a “certificate of fitness” were allowed to fuel cars. The decision paves the way for others states to similarly eliminate full-serve mandates. Today, self-serve is available in 48 states. (New Jersey and Oregon still require full-service operations. New Jersey’s law was enacted in 1949; Oregon’s in 1951.)

Toyota, Honda and Datsun enter the U.S. car market. By 1974, imports account for nearly one in five cars sold in the country.

1969: Gilbarco introduces the “tight seal nozzle” to prevent splash-back. The system also allows faster filling rates and helps mitigate the release of gas vapors.




1970: The Clean Air Act is signed into law, authorizing the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both stationary (industrial) sources and mobile sources.

The National Environmental Policy Act establishes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is created in May 1971.

1972: The Federal Trade Commission requires that minimum octane ratings be posted on all fueling dispensers.

1973: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues regulations calling for the incremental reduction of tetraethyl lead (TEL) in gasoline. TEL had helped reduce engine knock and spurred the way for the development of high-power, high-compression engines. Starting with the 1975 model year, U.S. automakers respond by equipping new cars with pollution-reducing catalytic converters designed to run only on unleaded fuel.

1973-74: OPEC announces an oil embargo against countries (including the United States) that supported Israel during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. Arab nations cut production by 5 million barrels per day, which is partially offset by increased production in other countries adding 1 million barrels per day back into the system. Still, the net loss of 4 million barrels per day represents 7 percent of the free world production and causes oil prices to shoot up from $3.01 to $11.65 per barrel by December. In January 1974, President Richard Nixon tells Americans that “the American people cannot afford to pay such prices (to address concerns over $1/gallon gasoline), and I can assure you that we will not have to pay for them.”

Fuel shortages and long lines grow as the crisis deepens. Gas stations are asked to close on Saturday nights and Sundays and 90% comply. Odd-even gas rationing is also introduced for the first time since World War II. (The final numerical digit contained in the plate determines if you can buy gas on a given day. If the last digit is even, you can buy gas on even-numbered days. Plates with all letters are considered “odd.”) The combination of short supply and price controls initiated by President Nixon to stem inflation leads to the closing of thousands of stations. By March 1974, the embargo ends and the shortage abates.

1974: A national speed limit of 55 miles per hour is enacted, with enforcement tied to highway funding (some states are later permitted to increase the limit to 65 mph on rural interstates). Ten years later, Sammy Hagar’s song, “I Can’t Drive 55” is a hit. In 1995, President Bill Clinton signs a bill lifting federal control over speed limits. Today, some states have speed limits of as much as 80 mph and a toll road in Texas has a speed limit of 85 mph.

1975: The Energy Policy & Conservation Act of 1975 establishes CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations in response to the 1973-74 energy crisis. The regulations are for passenger vehicles only, requiring car manufacturers to have an average fleet fuel efficiency of 18 miles per gallon beginning in 1978. The Act also authorizes the creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

1976: The last major grassroots refinery in the United States is completed in Garyville, Louisiana. It begins operations in 1977.

1977: The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil, is established. It has a 727-million-barrel capacity to store oil in underground salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana.

1979-81: In February 1979, the revolution in Iran begins, and in November the U.S. Embassy in Iran is stormed and hostages are taken. Midway through the year, Saudi Arabia cuts oil production and the price of crude oil soars. Meanwhile, the Iran/Iraq war also reduces production in both countries. Several states implement odd-even gas rationing, including New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The world price of crude oil jumps from around $14 per barrel at the beginning of 1979 to more than $35 per barrel in January 1981 before stabilizing. In 1979, the average gas price tops $1 per gallon for the first time. An estimated 1.4 million mechanical dispensers are unable to handle pricing beyond 99.9 cents, so sales by the liter grow as a way to address the problem. Gasoline prices peak in March 1981 at $1.42 per gallon. 

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1981: Within days of taking office, President Ronald Reagan announces the suspension of most price and allocation controls on domestic crude oil and price controls on gasoline and propane. The move is intended to help reduce dependence on foreign oil by allowing oil prices to rise to a market-clearing level, thereby encouraging more domestic production as well as energy conservation. Decontrol also sets the stage for the relaxation of export restrictions on petroleum products. Over the next four years, more than 100 small, inefficient refineries are forced to close because they can no longer compete.

1982: Fuels retailers try a new concept by offering multi-tiered pricing, offering discounts to those paying by cash.

1983: On March 30, Nymex debuts a futures contract on WTI crude oil for delivery to Cushing, Oklahoma. That same day, the Chicago Board of Trade debuts a futures contract on Louisiana oil for delivery to St. James Parish, Louisiana. Nymex teams up with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to introduce electronic trading of oil and other commodities in 2006.

1986: Oil prices collapse, dropping from around $23 per barrel to under $10 per barrel, and gas prices also drop, with many areas experiencing gas wars. The competition is so intense — and prices are already so low — in Austin, Texas, that Billy Jack Mason sets the price at his Exxon to $0.00 as a one-day promotion. OPEC attempts to regain market stability and sets a “reference price” of $18 per barrel for oil.

Pay-at-the-pump is introduced in the United States (it was introduced in Europe in 1982) by E-Z Serve and its subsidiary AutoGas in Abilene, Texas, with dispensers featuring a built-in credit/debit card reader system. (Sharp-eyed movie-goers will recognize E-Z Serve from the 1979 movie “The Jerk.” Long-time Abilene resident Steve Martin requested that the gas station where his character worked be converted to an E-Z Serve.) Only 13% of convenience stores have the technology by 1994, but 80% of convenience stores are using the technology by 2002, and virtually all stores do today.

1988: Underground storage tank (UST) regulations are passed, requiring all operators to upgrade their storage tank systems with spill-prevention and leak-detection equipment within a decade. Tens of thousands of stations close their operations over the next decade rather than invest in the costly upgrades. While convenience store owners invest millions of dollars to ensure that their underground storage tanks are compliant with current regulations, many local, state and federal government owners and operators, as well as some tribes and commercial fleets, continue to dispense fuel from non-compliant tanks.

1989: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implements a two-phase program to reduce summertime gasoline volatility measured as Reid vapor pressure (RVP). Phase I of the RVP regulations go into effect in 1989, with the average summer Reid Vapor Pressure in gasoline reduced from 11.5 to 10.5, and as low as 9.0 in some areas. The new RVP standards are established for each of the 48 contiguous states, generally during the summer months of May 1 through September 15. Phase II is implemented in 1992.

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1990: Congress passes the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which contain six provisions to be implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in stages between November 1, 1992, and January 1, 2000. Among the provisions is one for the Reformulated Gasoline Program, requiring the most polluted metropolitan areas, representing more than one-fifth of the nation’s population, to sell a cleaner burning reformulated gasoline; other areas may “opt in” to the program by applying to EPA. This program introduces into widespread use the additives MTBE and ethanol to satisfy the oxygen content requirement. It also significantly reduces the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel.

1990-91: In August 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait. The United Nations approves an embargo on all crude oil and products originating from either Iraq or Kuwait, creating concern over supply shortages that leads to a run-up in crude oil prices. Within a month, the price of crude oil climbs from about $16 per barrel to more than $28 per barrel. The price escalates to a high of about $36 per barrel in September 1990. The Gulf War begins in January 1991, but by then oil prices have already stabilized.

1992: The Energy Policy Act of 1992 seeks to restructure energy markets by mandating energy efficiency standards and a broader use of alternative energy and renewables, plus more domestic oil production.

1996: A Murphy retail site in Chattanooga opens next to a Sam’s Club, ushering in the modern era of hypermarkets — large supermarkets, discounters and mass merchandisers like H.E.B., Walmart and Costco — selling fuel. The concept of supermarkets and department stores selling fuel is not new — Sears and J.C. Penney experimented with retail fuel sales at their automotive centers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it did not generate sufficient consumer interest.  Today, there are approximately 5,000 hypermarket stores selling fuel, representing an estimated 12 percent of fuels sold. Walmart is the largest hypermarket selling fuel, with about 1,100 locations offering fueling.

Wallis Companies, a convenience store chain based in Cuba, Missouri, serves as the test market for the introduction of Speedpass. In tests, Speedpass reduced the average three- to four-minute fueling time by 30 seconds. Within five years, more than 5 million customers were considered regular Speedpass users at Mobil-, Esso- or Exxon-branded stations.

1999: Consolidation of the industry begins with the merger of British Petroleum and Amoco, and, later that year, Exxon and Mobil. In 2001, Chevron and Texaco merged, and Conoco and Phillips merged in 2002.

The Honda Insight is the first hybrid vehicle sold in the United States; 17 are sold that year.




2000: The website debuts, listing gas prices for select stations in the metro Minneapolis area. Four years later, the site evolves into GasBuddy, which today reports gas prices in every major market in the United States and Canada.

The EPA issues the final rulemaking on Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards and Highway Diesel Fuel Sulfur Requirements. It mandates the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel be cut from an average of 500 ppm to 15 ppm beginning in September 2006. The phase-in is to be complete by 2010 and applies to off-road diesel fuel in 2014. All vehicles built for model year 2007 and beyond must run on this new ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD).

2001: Terrorists strike the United States on September 11, prompting reduced air traffic. In turn, crude oil prices drop from nearly $28 per barrel on September 7 to $17.50 on November 15. Gasoline prices, likewise, drop from $1.52 per gallon on September 10 to $1.06 on December 17, with many areas of the country seeing gasoline prices under $1 per gallon.

2002-03: A general strike in Venezuela begins on December 2, 2002, depriving the United States of a critical source of imported crude oil and refined petroleum product for several months. (Venezuela had supplied approximately 8 percent of total U.S. petroleum products.) Crude oil prices increase from a pre-strike level of $26.83 to a mid-February 2003 level of $35.50 per barrel. Domestic crude oil stocks drop to their lowest level since October 1975.

2004: Sheetz is the first company to experiment with touch-screen kiosks at the pump where customers can also order in-store foodservice items to pick up after fueling.

In May, the average gasoline price tops $2 per gallon for the first time.

2005: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 eliminates the federal program that encouraged the use of MTBE or ethanol. In its place, Congress establishes the Renewable Fuels Standard, mandating that 4 billion gallons of biofuel be blended in the U.S. fuel supply by 2006 and 7.5 million gallons be sold by 2012. In addition, the bill limits the ability of states to establish their own fuel standards to control emissions, which stops the spread of market-specific, boutique fuel blends.

Hurricane Katrina makes landfall on August 29 and significantly disrupts the country’s petroleum infrastructure. Oil prices hit a record $70.85 per barrel on August 30. Wholesale gasoline prices rise sharply, and the average retail price of gas jumps from $2.61 per gallon on August 29 to $3.07 on September 5, the first time gasoline prices top $3 per gallon. Meanwhile, many more retailers mandate pre-pay for cash customers as gas thefts spike. By year’s end, the average gasoline price is back below $2.20 per gallon.

2006: Gasoline prices begin to take off in April with the rapid elimination of MTBE as a fuel additive, and diesel fuel is affected by the transition to ULSD. Crude oil prices again rise, hitting a record $78.40 per barrel on July 14.

2007: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 becomes law on December 19. The legislation expands the RFS, calling for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended in the U.S. fuel supply by 2022. In addition, the program requires that qualified renewable fuels meet specific targets for reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and establishes specific mandates for advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.

Gasoline and oil prices again hit new highs. Gasoline prices peak at $3.21 per gallon on May 28. Meanwhile, oil prices climb later that summer topping $80 per barrel for the first time on September 13. They continue to increase for the rest of the year, flirting with $100 before retreating.

2008: In June, the average gasoline price tops $4 per gallon for the first time. On July 17, gasoline and diesel hit record highs ($4.11 for gasoline). But just as many analysts predict even higher prices, the economic meltdown strikes and prices plummet. Oil drops more than $110 a barrel and gas prices bottom out at $1.61 a gallon by December.

In June, ExxonMobil announces it will sell its retail assets, and ConocoPhillips makes a similar announcement in August, joining BP, which in 2007, announced it was getting out of the retail side of the business.

2009: President Barack Obama’s administration updates the CAFE standards, setting a standard of 35.5 miles per gallon for model year 2016.

The fallout from the recession and the economic meltdown continues, as global demand for oil decreases for the second straight year—the first two-year decline since 1983. U.S. demand decreases for all petroleum products, except for gasoline, which sees a small increase of 0.1%.

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​2010: The BP-owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes on the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast on April 20 and is not capped until July 15. During that time, an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spill in the Gulf, causing significant environmental problems and leading to protests targeting BP-branded (but not necessarily owned) stations. Many BP stations see sales declines of 5 to 10%, but it’s far lower than the 40 to 50% seen at many Exxon stations following the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

In October, the EPA issues a partial waiver to allow E15 (15 percent ethanol) fuel in model 2007 and later vehicles. A second waiver—allowing E15 for model year 2001 and later vehicles—passes soon after.

The Nissan Leaf debuts as the first mass-produced electric vehicle to hit the U.S. market.

2011: Arab Spring uprisings in several countries, most notably Libya, lead to oil price spikes, and gas prices top out at $3.99 per gallon in May.

In June, President Obama announces a greenhouse gas reduction policy for light-duty vehicles. The new standard results in the next phase in CAFE standards, requiring the equivalent fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks in model year 2025.

2012: Despite fears that gasoline prices may set new daily highs in the spring, they peak at $3.92 in April. However, the rest of the year remains bumpy and the average price for the year sets a new record. Hurricane Isaac hits the Gulf Coast as the fall transition to winter-blend fuels is underway and contributes to a rare late-summer price increase. In October, California experiences rapid price increases after a refinery fire and prices peak at $4.67 a gallon in the state. Later that month, Superstorm Sandy decimates the East Coast and many stations in New York and New Jersey are without power and without supply, creating long gas lines. Both states mandate odd-even rationing, last seen in the United States in 1979.

Vendgough introduces gas island vending for drinks at a Lone Star Food Store in Sherman, Texas.

2013: Concerned about reaching the “blend wall” in which the biofuels mandate established in 2007 cannot be reached, the Environmental Protection Agency issues a proposal to reduce the renewable fuels standard by roughly 3 billion gallons to a target of approximately 15.2 billion gallons. It also proposes that the advanced biofuels mandate be reduced from 3.75 to around 2.2 billion gallons for advanced biofuels.

NACS announces the formation of the Fuels Institute, a non-profit, research-oriented think tank dedicated to evaluating the market issues related to consumer vehicles and the fuels that power them, and issued its first report, “Tomorrow’s Vehicles: What Will We Drive in 2023?”

Two new entrants announce that they will try new concepts 2014: Dollar General will sell gas at a Dollar General Market in Hanceville, Alabama, and Walmart will test a convenience store selling fuel concept (Walmart 2 Go) in Bentonville, Arkansas.   

2014: In May, Hyundai Motor Co. begins leasing a fuel-cell version of its Tucson sport-utility vehicle in California — the first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle to be sold to the public in the United States.

Oil prices fall from over $100 a barrel in August to around $55 by year’s end, and lead to a record 97 straight days of gas price declines to end the year. Unlike the sharp oil price drops of 2001 and 2008 that were demand driven, this is supply driven.

2015: Several home-delivery fueling companies emerge, including Purple, Yoshi and Filld. For a delivery fee of $5 to $7, customers can have 5, 10 or 15 gallons delivered to their vehicle.

“Play at the pump” is introduced with the sale of lottery tickets at fuel dispensers at some stores in California and North Carolina.

The U.S. EPA announces a new target of 18.1 billion gallons of renewables for 2016, up from the 17.4 billion the agency proposed in May but short of a target of 22.25 billion gallons set by Congress in 2007.

In December, representatives from 195 countries approve a climate change plan to hold global warming below 2° Celsius by accelerating the world’s transition from fossil fuels to solar, wind, nuclear, hydropower and other clean energy sources.

2016: The Colonial Pipeline faces two outages, both to Line 1 that carries gasoline from Houston to Greensboro. Beginning September 9, a 12-day disruption leads to significantly higher gas prices, particularly in the Atlanta area. A second 6-day outage begins on October 31 has a minimal effect on gas prices.

In December, Visa Inc. delays its deadline for installing EMV chip-card readers in U.S. gasoline pumps from 2017 to 2010 after retailer discussions made clear that they would not have enough time to complete the multibillion-dollar upgrades.

2017: Hurricane Harvey makes landfall near Houston as a Category 4 storm in late August, the first major hurricane to strike the United States since Wilma in 2005. The storm reduces U.S. refining capacity by 34%. The storm also disrupts distribution of fuel throughout the country, especially related to the Colonial Pipeline and leads to the second largest weekly price gas price increase on record (28 cents). Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma forces evacuations throughout Florida and strong fuel demand continues to stress the fuel distribution infrastructure.


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