updated 7/18/2007 3:18:18 PM ET 2007-07-18T19:18:18

Record-high prices for gasoline this year haven’t dampened U.S. drivers’ demand for fuel, an industry trade group said Wednesday.

Drivers consumed a record 9.2 million barrels, or 388 million gallons, of gasoline on average every day during the first half of the year, up 1.5 percent from last year’s levels, the American Petroleum Institute said in its midyear review of fuel statistics.

While daily domestic gasoline production rose 3.4 percent to a first-half high of 8.9 million barrels, that wasn’t enough to meet demand.

Gasoline imports rose to a record of more than 1.3 million barrels per day in the second quarter after stalling in the first quarter, the trade group said.

The industry was plagued with a series of unplanned refinery outages this year that have caused gasoline inventories to run below year-ago levels. But the API said capacity expansions at existing refineries helped the industry boost production levels.

“The industry pulled out the stops to meet unprecedented consumer demand,” said John Felmy, the trade group’s chief economist, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, a draft report by the National Petroleum Council, an industry advisory group to the federal government, said conventional crude oil supplies won’t keep up with growing global demand in the next 25 years. Other fuels from ethanol to liquefied coal and oil from tar sands will be needed to close the gap, the report said.

The report projected continued growth of conventional global crude oil production but said that it would not be enough to meet demand and called for improvements in auto fuel economy “at the maximum rate possible” although citing no specific fuel economy increases.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery gained 88 cents to $74.90 a barrel on the on the New York Mercantile Exchange after pushing above $75 earlier.

Retail gas prices fell another 0.9 cent overnight to a national average of $3.03 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Gas prices peaked at $3.23 a gallon in late May.

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