Gas Prices Spur Web Searches on Alternative Fuels
NEW YORK --- As the average national gas price approaches three dollars per gallon for the second time since September 2005, consumers are turning to the Internet to research alternative fuel options such as ethanol and biodiesel. According to Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence service, the share of U.S. Internet searches for the term ”ethanol” was up 212 percent for the four weeks ending May 13, versus the four weeks ending April 15. Moreover, the share of searches for “biodiesel” was up 100 percent in that same period. In the month of April, the market share of visits to the government site FuelEconomy.gov were up 115 percent over March, and visits to the American Coalition for Ethanol site and the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site were up 96 percent and 78 percent, respectively. "When pump prices surge, we see a corresponding jump in searches for 'gas prices' as well as alternate fuel sources such as 'biodiesel,' which was popular when gas prices breached $3 a gallon last September," said Bill Tancer, general manager of research at Hitwise. "But this year, with the increased attention given to ethanol as an alternate fuel source, we see it overtaking 'biodiesel' as gas prices continue to rise." Car manufacturers Toyota and Honda could be beneficiaries of the rising gas prices. The Toyota website has experienced an increase in market share of visits by 42 percent overall and the Honda Automobiles website by 19 percent, comparing April 2006 to January 2006. Both car manufacturers' hybrid models could be a factor in driving traffic to the site. Hitwise data shows that the number of visits to the Gas Price Alert website and Gas Buddy website increased 432 percent and 417 percent, respectively, comparing the week ending April 29 versus the week ending April 1. Overall, the Gas Buddy website has received more than 25 percent of the traffic from searches on the term “gas prices” for the four weeks ending May 13.