Tips: Drivers Can Help Fight Climate Change, Save at the Gas Pump

With gas prices already approaching $3 a gallon nationwide well in advance of the summer driving season, the Alliance to Save Energy urges drivers to cut their own energy costs while helping to curb climate change by driving more fuel-efficiently.

The alliance also encourages consumers to test their "Energy IQ" and take the 6 Degrees of Energy Efficiency Challenge at http://www.sixdegreechallenge.org to learn how their energy use and energy waste affects their communities, the nation and the planet -- and how being more energy-efficient contributes to the nation's economic and energy security.

The alliance offers these tips to improve gas mileage and reduce costly trips to the pump:

  • Maintain your vehicle. Fixing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent. Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated to improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent and also improve safety and tire life. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1 pounds per square inch (psi) drop in pressure of all four tires.
  • Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil to improve gas mileage by 1 percent to 2 percent. Also, look for motor oil that states "Energy Conserving" on the American Petroleum Institute (API) performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.
  • Idle minds and idling vehicles -- be mindful when behind the wheel. Avoid idling, which gets 0 miles per gallon (mpg). Cars with larger engines typically waste even more gas while idling than cars with smaller engines.
  • Obey the speed limit. It's safer and less expensive. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour (mph). As a rule of thumb, each 5 mph over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon for gas.
  • Curtail "road rage"/aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is safer, too -- so you may save more than gas money.
  • Are you carrying around too much excess "baggage?" Pack lightly when traveling, and avoid carrying items on your vehicle's roof. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2 percent.
  • Use cruise control to help cut fuel consumption by maintaining a steady speed during highway driving.
  • Combine errands into one trip to drive fewer miles, use less fuel, and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, multipurpose trip when the engine is warmed-up and efficient.
  • Investigate other options for getting to work and other places -- carpooling, ridesharing, public transportation, biking and walking.
  • Telecommute or stagger work hours if your employer permits to avoid sitting in traffic and wasting gas, especially during peak rush hours.
  • If you own more than one vehicle, drive the one that gets better gas mileage whenever possible. If you drive 15,000 miles a year, driving a car that gets 20 mpg rather than 30 mpg will cost you nearly $650 more. That's approaching $2,500 extra in fuel costs in just four years!
  • Buying, leasing, or renting a vehicle? Select a model that gets better fuel economy. Check out http://www.fueleconomy.gov for information on fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • Take advantage of 2007 federal income tax credits that reduce what you owe to Uncle Sam or increase your tax refund by $250 to $3,400 for purchases of hybrid-electric or diesel vehicles. Amounts are based on the vehicle's efficiency and fuel savings. Details in English and Spanish are on the alliance's Web site -- http://www.ase.org/taxcredits.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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