Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reducing Dependency on Oil: An Easy Start

I get so angry and frustrated when I keep hearing the Bush administration, or anyone else for that matter, talking about long-term plans for reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

From ramping up more nuclear power plants, to drilling in Alaska, to increasing our use of ethanol, all the ideas are goals set in the distant future. And that's fine, but I don't think raising the fuel efficiency standards from the current 27.5 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020 is really a plan. How many more cars will be on the nation's highways by 2020? And what good is that extra 7.5 miles per gallon average going to do if the price of a gallon of gas happens to be around $8.00 in 2020, if not by 2010!

But, whatever course of action we take, and it probably needs to involve some of everything -- including a tax increase on consumption, here's one idea that could cut dependency right now. Today. And you don't even need to go trade in your GMC Sierra for a Prius. In fact, this idea doesn't cost you a cent.

There are about 243,023,485 registered vehicles in the US. Let's say 150 million are in daily use, just to be extra conservative.

I don't know how people drive where you live, but I suspect it's not vastly different from how they drive right here in liberal Austin, Texas. I don't have what I'd consider to be a fuel efficient vehicle. I get about 23 mpg going to and from work each day. What my car does have is a MPG display in the dash which allows me to monitor my slurpage. I think these nifty little devices should be mandatory in all vehicles, not that I'd really expect most Americans to pay attention to it.

Even modest acceleration in my car gets me about 10-12 mpg, and less than 9 mpg on an average acceleration. However, when I remove my foot from the pedal it jumps to well over 50 mpg.

I pay particularly close attention to this when I'm on the freeway and see that traffic ahead of me is slowing or stopping, or when I'm on a street or freeway access road and approaching a red light. If I'm going 50 mph I can coast quite a distance and reap the benefits of minimal fuel consumption.

Now contrast my behavior with that of so many others who will accelerate to PASS ME as we're both approaching the same red light or traffic jam. They not only accelerate but they continue accelerating until the last few seconds when they have to apply the brakes. I see this phenomenon day after day, week after week, and it seems as if 90% of the drivers on the road feel they are in some kind of race to see who can get to the stopping point the fastest. It's mind-boggling, and almost all of them are driving vehicles with far less fuel efficiency than mine.

Getting back to those 150,000,000 vehicles in daily use, let's assume with the adoption of some less stupid driving habits, each of them could save 1/10 of a gallon of gas per day. Obviously some of the more aggressive drivers with longer commutes could save more.

That's about 15,000,000 gallons of fuel saved each day, or more than half a billion gallons of fuel saved each year. And that's just from adopting less aggressive driving habits. And again, I'm trying to be conservative with my non-scientific figures. The actual savings could be considerably higher.

Eliminating one or two unnecessary trips per week could save much more. We could literally stop using well over a billion gallons of fuel each year with minimal and almost unrecognizable changes in our driving habits.

It sounds like a lot but given the thirst of so many behemoths on our highways, it probably amounts to an annual savings equal to one or two days' consumption. But it's a start.

Put in more personal terms, I'm probably keeping an extra $100 in my pocket each year by coasting when possible, and accelerating only when necessary. That's about 2 1/2 tanks of fuel. And I pull away from those red lights at the same time as the assholes who whiz past me in some unpatriotic piece of shit like this adorned with Bush/Cheney stickers and Support Our Troops ribbons, imported from China along with just about everything else. And how much oil does that waste?

And who is the real conservative here? A Bush/Cheney war hawk or this radical hippie Kucinich supporter?

If you think I'm angry now, don't even get me started on the folks who sit with their engines running for 5 minutes or longer each day in a drive-thru waiting on their burgers and fries. Do the math.

Crossposted at Big Brass Blog

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