Outreach/Newspaper Column/Fuel for Thought

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With gas prices spiking to new heights beginning in April, I had to start thinking about my driving habits. Specifically, I had to figure out ways to show up at the pump less often (and seeing a ridiculously large number next to the dollar sign.) I found some excellent tips for saving gas (and therefore cash.) In the process, I also learned more about the hazards of gasoline, which gave me an even greater incentive to buy less of it.

I should state at the outset that I love being in my car. It’s my sanctuary, my little oasis from clutter, noise, and phones - and I am not giving it up. But, apparently, there are some small steps I can take to save time and money, while minimizing my contribution to air pollution.

Ways to reduce your car’s gas consumption when you need to drive

1) Keep your engine tuned - it can save you up to 165 gallons of gas per year.

2) Maintain full tire pressure. Low tire pressure wastes over two million gallons of gasoline in the U.S.

3) Clean out your car and pack lightly when traveling; heavier cars use more fuel.

4) Use cruise control - a steady speed means a higher MPG ratio.

5) Don’t leave the engine on when you’re in line waiting to pick someone up. (This is called idling.) If you know you’ll be there for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine, weather permitting.

6) Regarding A/C, “Air conditioning can decrease your fuel efficiency by as much as 12 percent in stop-and-go traffic,” (www.NRDC.org), so crack the windows instead. On the other hand, when you’re traveling at high speeds, driving with the windows open can decrease the overall efficiency of your car, so just use your AC on low.

7) Ease up on aggressive driving. “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an extra 26 cents per gallon of gas.” www.EDF.org

Ways to Reduce Driving

1) If you work close to home, consider biking to work. With the right clothing, you can ride right into the beginning of winter, before snow arrives. Think of it. You get your exercise in, you save money on gas, and you get to look more virtuous than the rest of us.

2) Consider taking public transportation to work. It buys you time, that precious commodity. You can read the newspaper, get work done, listen to music with headphones, start a new book, etc. When I’ve used those little yellow foam earplugs, I can read or write in the middle of a crowd.

3) Combine errands to reduce trips. Several short trips, taken from a cold start, can use twice the fuel as one trip of the same distance with a warmed up engine.

4) Go food-shopping with a friend. I’ve done it and, believe me, shopping is more fun with a friend. We got to catch up in the car while driving to and from the store. (If you buy in bulk when shopping, you can make fewer trips to the store.)

Personally, I’m excited. I’m going to save money, get in better shape, and help cut global warming pollution. Talk about a win-win situation.

Sources: www.EPA.com, www.EDF.org, NationalSafetyCommission.com, www.AAA.com, www.NRDC.org, and www.fueleconomy.gov.