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Thursday, May 8, 2008

6 Stupidly Simple Steps to Saving Billions of Gallons of Gas

OK...gas prices are getting out of hand, and carbon emissions have been out of hand for a long time. So let's kill two birds with...well...five stones. We generally focus on high-technology here at EcoGeek, and how we can save energy with smart designs. But sometimes, there are simpler ways. In fact, an absolutely tremendous amount of gasoline could be saved in America with some very simple measures. We break it all down and figure out how much gas can be saved with some stupidly simple techniques.

1. Lose Some Weight - 900 M Gallons of Gas
Americans weigh about 24 more pounds per person than we did in the 1970s. That weight, when we're driving, has to be moved around with our cars. Multiplied over the three trillion miles driven in America each year, suddenly we need a lot of gas to move around our extra chub. If we could (preferably through walking and biking) lose those 24 lbs and reach 1970's sizes, America would used nearly one billion gallons of gas less than we currently do.

2. Intelligent Traffic Lights - 1000 M Gallons of Gas
Studies have shown that altering traffic lights to ensure maximum flow can reduce gasoline consumption in cities by between 10% and 20%. Already, lots of places have traffic light systems that use sensors to detect whether or not there are cars in certain lanes and when and how often to change lights. But a great deal of traffic infrastructure is still extremely primitive, and most of it is programmed by hand. Researchers have begun to attempt to create traffic lights that can make decisions for themselves. Stoplights might soon communicate with other nearby lights about when they plan on changing, how much traffic they've seen, and what's been working for them recently to keep traffic flowing. And they will even be able to remember what worked for maximizing flow in the past, and use those same techniques in the future.

3. More Expensive Gas - 450 M Gallons of Gas (so far)
OK, so this isn't necessarily the best solution to our problems. Especially since most people who really need to drive can't afford to pay much more for gas. But 2007 showed the first decrease in the number of miles traveled since the gas crisis of the 70s. As gas prices sored to upwards of $3.00 per gallon, people actually drove less. The amount driven dropped by about 10 billion miles. At the average fleet efficiency of 22 mpg, that's 450 million gallons of gas saved.

4. Drive a Little Slower - 600 M Gallons of Gas (just for semi trucks)
Recently, with diesel prices topping $4.00, Con-Way Freight, owner of one of the largest truck fleets in America, decided that they would decrease the maximum speed their drivers could drive from 65 mph to 62 mph. This will save the company 3.2 million gallons of fuel per year. And that's just ONE trucking company going 3 mph slower! If this was expanded to all 1.5 million semis on American roads, it would save 617 million gallons of fuel! And if it the national speed limit was lowered to 65 mph, the savings would be extreme. Already, the U.S. trucking industry is calling for a decrease in the national speed limit, first because the difference in speed between trucks and cars creates possible safety issues. And second, because it would, ultimately, decrease the price of fuel.

5. More People Per Car - 1500 M Gallons of Gas
If every car in America that transported one person instead transported two people, we'd save about 8 billion gallons of gas per year. But since, y'know, I guess that's unrealistic, we figure we'll aim lower. If just 20% of current drive-only trips became two-passenger carpools, we'd use 1.5 billion fewer gallons of gas per year.

6. Increase Mileage to 35 MPG - 55,000 M Gallons of Gas by 2015
This needs to be said. The current average fuel economy of an American car is 22 mpg. It would be lower if there was no law in place requiring that efficiency. The auto industry has been fighting any increase in that number for decades. We finally have a law on the books that will increase that number to 35 MPG by 2020. But if we, in America, had 35 MPG cars today, like the currently do in Europe, we would use 55 BILLION gallons of gas less. Yes, looking back through the rest of the list, this might seem to trivialize the rest of that work.

But each of these measures will, without a doubt, help us deal with the supply shortages and environmental implications of our massive oil addiction. And while American still consumes roughly 400 million gallons of gasoline per day

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