Tire gauges

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Barack Obama suggested that people properly inflate their tires and tune up their cars to help reduce oil consumption. John McCain ridiculed him for it and said we need to start off-shore drilling. Why do people so easily laugh off the idea of maintaining your car as a way to use less gas?

As Time magazine points out, tire gauges are a good solution:

The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 barrels per day by 2030. We use about 20 million barrels per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

And don't forget that time line: offshore drilling would take ten years before it changed anything, while we can immediately begin using less gas now with simple maintenance. Heck, if need be, do both. But what's so funny about maintaining your car?

Everyone knows these tips: drive slower, inflate your tires, tune up your car, you'll have better efficiency right away. If the experts' estimates are right, you can immediately use 5% less gas. Put another way, pay 20 cents less per gallon.

Why do people find this so ridiculous? Americans, especially voters being pitched during an election year, want big actions, not tweaks. Any idea that includes "less" or "smaller" or "work" is ridiculed as somehow eating into our way of life. And as much as people cry out for personal responsibility, they don't want to get their hands dirty checking their tire pressure.

Shop around for cheaper gas? OK. Use a little less, even if it doesn't mean driving less? No thanks. Sheesh...

Comments

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DavidM 8:53 AM on 6 Aug 2008

Gas prices are hitting low income families hardest, and they aren't driven by OUR demand but by worldwide demand.

Inflating tires will not erase the 100-200$ per month extra a family spends in fuel. Nor will it ease the high food prices caused by the ethanol scam. Nor will it cause countries like China and India who use more oil every day. There is nothing ignorant about pointing this out.

There is no reason Congress should stop anyone from drilling or building refineries. Its no business of Congress in the first place(well offshore maybe but not domestic drilling); see Article X of the Constitution.

That said, I keep my tires inflated.

Obama's solution involves raiding our 401k accounts in the guise of 'windfall profits' tax and redistributing it to people who didn't earn it.

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E L 9:05 AM on 6 Aug 2008

Its not that inflating tires is ridiculous, its the notion that inflating tires alone will make up for the fact that we are not drilling for more oil.

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Nate 9:08 AM on 6 Aug 2008

Amen.

Here's a really great article on what offshore drilling would really get us (summary: practically no impact, maybe 1% of our oil needs)

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/06/20/new_offshore_drilling_not_a_quick_fix_analysts_say/

We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels, not find more of them. Americans have reduced their driving by something like 3% from last year, and GM's SUV production has been drastically cut due to Americans choosing to buy smaller, more fuel efficient cars. That alone has made a bigger impact than offshore drilling ever could.

We need to find more ways to reduce our reliance on ALL oil, not just foreign. And the crazy thing is, we already have everything we need - wind power, solar power, hydro power, and even nuclear power. If we put half as much money into developing renewable energy sources as we put into funding the oil business, we'd all have solar panels on our roofs by now.

But we don't have to wait for the government to do it for us. Every one of us can take a few easy steps to largely reduce our reliance on oil, and most of them will save you money, too. Buy a car with 5 more MPG than your current car. Change all your light bulbs out with compact fluorescent bulbs. Buy more local food. And yes, keep your car well maintained.

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Nate 9:20 AM on 6 Aug 2008

E L - did you read what Ned wrote? The whole point is that checking your tire pressure WILL give the equivalent relief of offshore drilling.

As for blaming India and China - the US imports more than DOUBLE the oil that India and China do, *put together*. And given that the population of the US is 1/8th of those two countries, that means that per person, we're importing SIXTEEN TIMES the amount of oil. So... whose fault are the high prices again?

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DavidM 9:40 AM on 6 Aug 2008

Total usage is not the issue, its increased demand. Even if China+India is only 40% of the US its still a 40% jump in demand. So what if we use more, we also produce a LOT more goods/services per person than China.

As far as the 'analysts' go, I would say if we can put a man on the moon in 6 years we can increase domestic oil production better than 1% of our usages. The market should be dictating production and not Congress.

PS. If offshore drilling is so unprofitable, why are Brazil, Mexico and China doing it?

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Rik Hemsley 9:40 AM on 6 Aug 2008

Driving slower isn't going to help unless you're driving over the speed at which your vehicle uses fuel with maximum efficiency. Accelerating gently rather than aggressively can help, though the sort of people who drive aggressively are probably not the sort who care about fuel efficiency.

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Izzy 9:46 AM on 6 Aug 2008

The "pain at the pump", "the pinch of high gas prices", the so called "suffering" exposes the American society as a pathetic nation of whiners. Hey I got a lot of respect for McCain for having an advisor who dared to say that. Of course that guys got sacked. I fully agree with that mental recession is what most people suffer of.

Who are we kidding? Look at all the SUVs on the street, the new cars, huge mansions ... the only pain I see is the one that we cause to the global economy. As gay marriage was the top "issue" in 2004 I see another pointless and meaningless issue topping the agenda this year. Boy how pathetic it is.

And there is an easy solution to it all. Stop using so much gas. That will ease the price of gas immensely. But of course that requires some change of habits. And change is the most difficult, it is you who needs to change not someone else. Even a minute changes in driving habits will add up to more than all the pointless drivel from both candiadtes (did you know people drove 10 billion less miles in 2008?).

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Keith Gaughan 10:05 AM on 6 Aug 2008

"Why do people so easily laugh off the idea of maintaining your car as a way to use less gas?"

Laziness, of course. Maintaining your car takes effort, but it's somebody else who's doing the drilling.

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Shawn Wheatley 10:50 AM on 6 Aug 2008

The problem with politics in America (and probably elsewhere) is that if people think it sounds ridiculous, most people won't bother to do the leg work of finding out if it actually makes sense. Unfortunately, most people who read your blog are probably not in that crowd.

It unfortunately reminds me of the movie "Idiocracy." I envision McCain following up Obama's statement, laughing like Beavis and Butthead and saying "...you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded..."

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john doe 11:30 AM on 6 Aug 2008

dont most people already keep their tires inflated properly? that is, it wouldn't be a 3% IMPROVEMENT, but 3% overall?

maybe im wrong.

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Josh 11:42 AM on 6 Aug 2008

There's a lot of power in presidential requests for action and sacrifice. JFK's because famous for "ask what you can do for your country," and past presidents have led citizens to buy war bonds and volunteer.

Bush could have called Americans to action after 9/11, but he let his opportunity pass. I think President Obama will lead by promoting national voluntary efforts to conserve energy and invest in alternative sources.

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JohnMc 12:31 PM on 6 Aug 2008

The tire guage issue has little to do with whether it will work or not. The core problem is that it sends a sanctimonious message to the rest of the world -- "We want the oil but we don't want to get our hands dirty doing it. We suggest you put up with the risks; we would rather not." I think that wrong as so many levels.

But I will provide the one piece that puts deep doubt into Obama's comments. Tune ups. Modern vehicles today rarely need a tune up. Vehicles today use computer managed ignition, not points and condensers that wore out in old cars. What is generally replaced if at all is vulnerable rubber ignition cables. Some vehicles where access to the plugs are a problem use platinum plugs that can go 200k miles without being touched. Even a plain plug in a managed ignition system goes 50k-100k. That is about the practical life the the original buyer owns the car before selling it.

Nor do I think it would take 22 years to get additional oil in the OCS online. The Bush estimate also applied the std regulatory drag to the estimate. Fast track the regulatory barriers and you could bring that delivery horizon to about 5-6 years. Nor are the estimates for ANWR accurate. From the proposed field to Pudrue Bay is 70 miles. The entire 800 pipeline was done in 6 years. We can't lay 70 miles of pipe using the existing plans in 2? Hard to believe. Not only that but I have seen oil platforms here in Texas go from flat ground to drilling in 2 weeks. If its not a dry hole to producing in a month.

Just observing.

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Bryan Forbes 1:10 PM on 6 Aug 2008

In reply to Rik, I can tell you that it's not just driving slower, but a complete attitude change in how you drive. My wife and I don't let our odometer go over the "2" mark and don't drive over 65 mph and we get about double the use of a tank of gas than what we were getting before using these driving habits (we used to have to fill up once a week... that's changed to once every two weeks). Most of the time I feel like an elderly person accelerating so slowly, but it's actually relaxing because I'm not trying to get around some slow person (since I'm that person now ;).

The other problem I see is the number of people who drive gas guzzling SUV's and pickup trucks when they don't use them for what they are intended (a truck with a perfect paint job and no scratches in the bed is not getting used as it was intended). We need to get out of the mindset that cars are a status symbol and get into the mindset of buying for what we need.

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Eric Burke 1:14 PM on 6 Aug 2008

The troubling part about this is how the partisans distorted and took Obama's comments out of context. He did not say "this is my entire energy plan", yet that is how they are portraying it. A better response might be to think of how we can design better sensors that tell you immediately how much estimated money you will save by keeping your tires inflated, or by not hard-accelerating, etc. My car has low tire pressure sensors, but they only sound the alarm if the tires are severely low. I think if cars showed you an estimated dollar amount you could save, the immediate feedback might help. At any rate, back to my original point. The problem isn't what Obama said. The problem is the way the partisans did, and continue to, lie about what he actually said and take it out of context. That is insulting to my intelligence and the kind of "debate" we don't need right now.

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Robert 1:44 PM on 6 Aug 2008

The ridicule was probably because McCain knows Americans won't do it. Too lazy.

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Jack Diederich 2:10 PM on 6 Aug 2008

About conservation: The kind of people who will fastidiously maintain their car already do it. It is more of a habit than a cost saving measure - people do it because they have been taught* they should (as Ned said "Everyone knows these tips.."). Ditto for changing to CFL bulbs.

Conservation is good but it is imperfect. One of the things I like about CFLs is that I can leave them on all the time, and for cheap! I drive Boston => Philly => Boston about once a month. I can either make the 660 mile round trip in 9 hrs at 30MPG or 12 hours at 35MPG. I choose 30MPG (traffic permitting). It costs me an extra $10 but saves three hours.

Conservationists send an off putting sackcloth and ashes message which doesn't help their cause. Many "conservation" measures are about conspicuous acts and not dictionary definition conservation. NYC spends $100 million a year on curbside recycling because the value of what it collects is far less than what it costs to collect it. Compare that to the local scrapyard where they pay you to bring in stuff (seriously, go visit a scrapyard. It has big trucks, cranes, and other fun stuff). How many acres of land could be bought and left fallow with all that recycling money? How much gas would be saved by having only one truck make the rounds instead of two? But any city government that cut recycling would be lynched by well meaning greens.

I understand the need to stay on message but why pick "inflate your tires" instead of "drive a manual," or "use less heat/AC" instead of "get a roommate" (get married, it's good for the environment!)?

Any calls for collectivism (see Josh's comment) poison the message for a large percent of the population.

* Most people, I did know a girl who received a rude shock after college. She had no idea cars needed oil - her father had been changing it silently for years. Two years (!) after she got her own place her engine seized up, dry as a bone.

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JohnMc 2:21 PM on 6 Aug 2008

Eric, what distortion? Here's what he said -- http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DakjXqfvLu28&ei=OPSZSMifNqSmpwTy4pGtDg&usg=AFQjCNEIH-kllALFFKBggRRF7Hl7HmadFw&sig2=JJaiZHWp5UMpkTMDptaj-g.

His implication is that we would get the equivalent of oil drilling by pumping up tires. But run the numbers. The US runs 8.7m bbl a day for transport. Assuming a generous 3% increase in mileage that's 70m a year for a 270 work year. A good number but is dwarfed by the 2.4B bbl we use.

The Brazilians just discovered a 30B reserve off their OCS. We may expect just as much off ours. Some are saying there is a 100B deposit in OCS of the Polar ice cap. Obama's numbers are fanciful as a defined solution.

The funny irony is the latest quip from Paris Hilton makes more sense than either McCain or Obama. We have to do all of it. Conserve, nukes, drill, solar and wind.

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Robert Kieffer 3:26 PM on 6 Aug 2008

The best thing this country could do right now is to get rid of all the direct and indirect financial incentives, tax breaks, and subsidies afforded to the oil industry.

The Real Price of Gasoline is a 10 year old report on all the costs taxpayers bear for gas that, if anything, is truer today than it was when it was published. Executive summary: We are paying $7.50-$20/gallon (inflation adjusted to 2008) for gas already. We just don't realize it.

Not only does this create a completely out-of-whack supply/demand curve for vehicles (hello, Hummer!), it creates a totally unnecessary volatility in pump prices. For example, say the actual cost of a gallon of gas is $10: $4 we pay at the pump, plus another $6 in taxes that subsidize the oil industry in various ways. If oil prices rise and cause a 20% increase in the actual cost of gas ($2), that has to be passed on to consumers at the pump, where it manifests as a 50% increase in pump prices ($4 + $2 = $6).

Since virtually all businesses have profit models and quarterly projections that are heavily influenced (directly or indirectly) by expectations of how gas prices will fluctuate, this increased volatility translates directly to more unstable markets and (surprise!) a weaker economy.

By removing the benefits for oil companies the tax payers are subsidizing, and giving the money back to tax payers, we create a more balanced market. Sure, the oil companies will have to drastically raise pump prices, but the actual cost to consumers won't change at all (we just pay for gas using the money we save in taxes). And you can bet the increased pump prices will have a wonderful effect on consumer demand for more efficient vehicles and alternate fuel sources.

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Zoran Lazarevic 6:20 PM on 6 Aug 2008

Did anyone calculate how much it costs to check the gauge and inflate the tires every time tank is filled up. Assuming it takes on average 6 minutes (1.5 minutes per tire) at $20/hour cost of time, this comes out to $2 per visit to a gas station. Assume you are filling up 10 gallons at $4/gal = $40. You get the cost ratio of $2/$40 = 5%. That means you are spending 5% of the value of the gas to save 3%. Luckily, people have enough common sense not to listen to presidential candidates.

Why should we drill for a benefit 10 years from now? For our children.

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Robert Kieffer 7:30 PM on 6 Aug 2008

Did anyone calculate how much time is spent worrying about this issue?

Let's see, if I spend just 10 minutes a day discussing/thinking/worrying about this issue, that's 5 hours a month, times a nominal hourly rate of $75/hour = $375/month. Heck, that's ~8X what I pay for gas in a month - problem solved!

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Steven V 9:25 PM on 6 Aug 2008

@bryan "My wife and I don't let our odometer go over the "2" mark"

so... you never drive more than 2 miles?

of course Americans are lazy... just look around at how many ways we want to loose weights without doing what's required (eat less and exercise more).

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Ali 10:26 PM on 6 Aug 2008

I caught this on C-SPAN a couple of days ago. It's a talk by Anne Korin on ending oil dependence to some young conservatives group. Very good and well received from what I could gague - and not entirely what I expected given the venue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MVwL2PcCG8

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elhackin 4:04 AM on 7 Aug 2008

Hi, so called leaders of the World,
as an european I am glad to export all sort off reneeable energie to YOU
- now an in the future -

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Bob Balaban 6:01 AM on 7 Aug 2008

I think we should just let the air out of John McCain's tires.
New McCain slogan: "Drain America First!"

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Nate 3:40 PM on 7 Aug 2008

More oil is not the answer. Large scientific bodies and industry experts have said offshore and ANWR drilling will produce an insignificant amount of oil. I challenge anyone to produce independent, peer reviewed scientific evidence to the contrary.

The only way we can become energy independent is to invest in local renewable resources. Yes, gas is high, but not as high as it is in Europe, and they're doing ok. We can coast on what we have until we get more renewable energy sources. The current gas "crunch" is actually having a lot of positive effects as far as getting Americans off their asses about conservation.

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Nate 3:47 PM on 7 Aug 2008

Btw, gas prices for Europe from the US DOE - http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/gas1.html

(USD per Gallon)
UK: 8.57
France: 8.37
Germany: 8.53

kinda makes our 4.13 seem not so bad.

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David Boudreau 2:30 AM on 11 Aug 2008

Americans definitely love to whine about gas prices. A rough estimate of my last visit to the gas station in Japan cost about 6.75 USD per gallon. As mentioned though, various taxes may be built into that. Recently this year there was a deadlock in the congress regarding taxes, so for almost a month or so, it meant no gas taxes and so cheaper prices at the pump but it was still more than whatever deal you get in the US. People were rejoicing in the streets during those days, lining up to buy it.

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