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A centennial anniversary yesterday marks a significant piece of history that brings us all together today: 100 years ago on Dec. 1, 1913, the first modern gas station opened for business.
We're told that early fueling sites were a patchwork collection of pharmacies or even ramshackle sheds and blacksmiths' shops where fuel was usually dispensed from a container, as opposed to being directly pumped into a vehicle's tank.
That all changed 100 years ago when Gulf Refining Company opened the nation's first drive-up service station in Pittsburgh, PA, designed and built specifically to sell fuel. On December 1, 1913, the station opened and sold 30 gallons of gasoline — less than one percent of the daily sales volume of a fueling station today.
"That first gas station did much more than define fueling for the next century — it redefined retail and ushered in the era of convenience," said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). "The emphasis was squarely on service — and speed of that service, concepts that are even more important today."
When Gulf opened that original service station in 1913, 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.
Here are a few statistics regarding today's fueling industry:
•There are 152,995 retail fueling sites in the United States. This is a steep and steady decline since 1994, when the station count topped 202,800 sites. This count includes 123,289 convenience stores selling fuel, plus grocery stores, truck stops, traditional gas stations and low-volume fueling locations like marinas. (Source: National Petroleum News' MarketFacts; NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count)
•The average convenience store sells roughly 128,000 gallons of motor fuels per month, or approximately 4,000 gallons per day. (Source: NACS State of the Industry 2012 data)
•U.S. gasoline demand is an estimated 8.7 million barrels per day in 2013, or about 40 million fill-ups per day. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook)
•Americans travelled 8.04 billion miles per day in 2012.