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Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Tire Gauge Controversy-Saving Gas?

Barack Obama recently said that Americans should tune up their cars and keep their tires properly inflated to save gas. He said that doing so would save more oil than what would be gained by offshore drilling. The McCain campaign jumped on it and began handing out tire gauges marked "Obama Energy Policy".

But politics aside, what's the data? IN a recent Time article, the estimates of the Bush Administration state that expanding offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. Americans now use about 20 million bbl. per day, so 200,000 barrels per day would meet about 1% of our demand- in about 20 years. But today efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3% and regular maintenance can boost that another 4%. If everyone kept their cars tunes and tires full, we could reduce demand several percentage points right away, saving gas, dollars andCO2 emissions. Looks like Obama is right- simple everyday things like tire pressure and tune ups do make a real difference.

Conservation and efficiency are the best approaches to dealing with energy and CO2crisis- according to Time "the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less."

This is a real piece of good news and empowerment that all of us can take action on, wherever we are. We can use significantly less energy without significantly changing our lifestyle- no hair shirt here. My friend Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute has shown repeatedly that investing in what he calls "nega-watts" — reducing our electricity use by increasing efficiency — is easier and lots cheaper than building the coal nuclear and oil fired plants to produce more megawatts. Turns out there's lots of simple steps each of us can do to reduce our own energy coasts, carbon footprint, and help our country become energy independent.

Put in CFLs: compact fluorescent light bulbs. They cost a few bucks more at the store but save 30-80 bucks over their lifetime. Every time you don't buy one you leave a pile of ten dollar bills on the table. We can put in power strips and then just cut the juice to things like televisions, computers and phone chargers that draw a small but significant "phantom load" even when they are switched off. We can seal up our windows, beef up our insulation and lower our thermostats in the winter and raise them in the summer so we use less heat and air-conditioning. Every time we buy a new appliance make sure it's the most energy efficient available, wash in cold water (you won't notice any difference in how clean your clothes are). Buy the most fuel efficient car that meets your needs, drive it in ways that boost mileage and inflate your tires and get a tune up. This is not a Democrat or Republican thing; it's an American thing and a good citizen of the world thing. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida, both Republican governors have taken strong efficiency stands as have many Democrats. While we're at it, we can cut down on idling, which can improve fuel economy another 5%, and cut down on speeding and unnecessary acceleration, which can increase mileage as much as 20%.

I don't like putting $75- $100 worth of gas into my car, so I take every step I can to do it as little as possible.


Even looking at getting an electric motorcycle- who says you can't be a little wild and "green" at the same time? Born to raise hell and lower my carbon footprint at the same time!

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