I’d Better Get a Heavy-Duty Tire Gauge

So, The Word I am hearing is that John McCain is somehow an idiot for taking issue with Barak Obama’s insistence that we need to properly inflate our tires and get tune-ups to save as much gasoline as “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.”

Think Progress follows up the ridicule with a piece by the Director of Communications for the Auto Alliance which has been characterized as confirming Obama’s view of things. It includes the following stats:

• The Department of Energy estimates that 1.2 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in 2005 as a result of driving on under-inflated tires.

• Fuel efficiency is reduced by 1% for every 3 PSI that tires are under-inflated.

• Proper tire inflation can save the equivalent of about 1 tank of gas per year.

• Proper tire inflation also reduces CO2 emissions.

• Experts estimate that 25% of automobiles are running on tires with lower than recommended pressure, because people don’t know how to check their tires or don’t realize that tires naturally lose air over time.

Well, then. Let’s look at the numbers then.

First of all, notice that 75% of automobiles are already properly inflated. So, we’re dealing with oil savings from only one in four automobiles.

A barrel of oil produces around 20 gallons of gasoline, so the total savings available through tire inflation is approximately 60,000,000 barrels of oil annually (1,200,000,000 gallons of fuel / 20 gallons per barrel).

Estimated reserves:

ANWR: 7,700,000,000 barrels of oil. Assuming that we take 20 years to extract it, that is a gain of 6,500,000,000 gallons of fuel per year (((7,700,000,000/20 years) barrels * 20 gallons of gasoline per barrel) – 1,200,000,000 gallons) over tire inflation. Every single car owner in the United States would have to keep their tires properly inflated for 128.3 years to save the amount of oil in the federally controlled portion of ANWR.

Outer Continental Shelf: The mean estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil is 85,900,000,000 barrels. Assuming the same 20 years to extract, that is a gain of 84,700,000,000 gallons of fuel per year (((85,900,000,000/20 years) barrels * 20 gallons of gasoline per barrel) – 1,200,000,000 gallons) over tire inflation. Every single car owner in the United States would have to keep their tires properly inflated for 1,431.67 years to save the amount of oil in the outer continental shelf.

Now, certainly 60,000,000 barrels of oil annually is nothing to sneeze at, but to claim that inflating tires and getting a tune-up would get us “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling” is ludicrous. Unless Mr. Obama’s plan is so long term that he’s looking about 1,500 years down the road, that is. I’d better get a heavy-duty tire gauge.

The Auto Alliance writer put it best:

Maintaining proper tire pressure may not solve our dependence on foreign oil, but it will help. Consumers can get a few more miles to gallon, and when combined other driving and maintenance tips, those small steps can help to make a serious improvement in vehicle fuel economy.

And while John McCain has never denied that, he has also never said that getting a few more miles per gallon offsets what tapping our own reserves will give us. And Obama did.

Bibliography

  1. Charles Territo (2008, August 8), America’s Auto Makers: Congress Should Inflate Their Tires, Not Their Rhetoric. Retrieved from Think Progress: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2008/08/05/172294/auto-alliance-on-tire-inflation/.
  2. Dick Plano (2004, June), Oil to Gasoline. Retrieved from http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/eng99/eng99288.htm.
  3. Arctic Refuge drilling controversy (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_Refuge_drilling_controversy#Estimates_of_oil_reserves.

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