Note: This article is written by Joseph O’Brien, Vice President of Marketing at Source. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Source North America Corporation.
2020 was a forgettable year that will not be forgotten. 2021 needs to be a memorable year for the right reasons, and cautious optimism is justified.
There are several indicators and prognostications available for each of us to consider. The truly hard work will be in setting aside those biases that lead us to accept only those outlooks that confirm our preconceptions.
Data showed that vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. dropped sharply in 2020, that public transit and air travel were down, but that truck and freight miles traveled were up. Predictions for 2021 generally suggest a strong rebound in vehicle miles traveled to pre-pandemic levels, but the trend toward working from home suggests otherwise.
There are contradictory studies and predictions on C-store vehicle and foot traffic visits, but C-store revenue outperformed many industries in 2020. And C-stores are one of the sectors of the economy that are increasing their number of employees significantly. The backdrop for this growth is clouded by longer-term indicators that are reason for concern:
- Global recovery for oil markets could take years
- Discretionary spending for transportation infrastructure projects will not occur as a result of decreased tax revenues
- Federal regulations are likely to be added and enforced more stringently with a new administration
- The move toward electric vehicles is gaining a foothold per announcements of investments by auto manufacturers
- Petroleum companies and entities are repositioning themselves as players in the “energy” sphere
The shared optimism that the vaccines for COVID-19 will herald a return to normal vibrant activity is a welcome sight. But just as the economic casualties in 2020 exposed a fragmented U.S. economy, the big winners from a rebound in 2021 will likely be similarly fragmented.
Those that plan for the best but still prepare for the unforeseen will persevere. Fortunately, the companies that bring fuel to the economy are well-poised to be part of that rebound and growth.
Sources of Outlook Information
As you look for reliable sources of information about the outlook for energy, fuel and general economic information, please consider the following:
• U.S. Energy Information Administration
• U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration