Patriotic answer to $4-a-gallon gas: Drive less, and slow down
Don't wait for a tech fix. Help America save big by driving 55.
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Today, 35 m.p.h. is no longer the best speed for autos with their sleek designs and advanced transmissions. Newer vehicles generally get the highest gas mileage somewhere between 45 and 55 m.p.h., says David L. Greene of the National Transportation Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tenn.Skip to next paragraph
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The main force reducing mileage is air drag, says Dr. Greene. The faster you go, the greater the drag. Drag forces increase exponentially, so doubling your speed from 40 to 80 increases drag fourfold.
It makes a huge difference, for at 80 m.p.h. your car pushes against wind with the force of a hurricane.
Consumer Reports tested the effect of higher speeds on gas mileage. David Champion, director of auto testing, found that boosting the highway speed of a 2006 Toyota Camry cut gasoline mileage dramatically:
•55 m.p.h. – 40.3 miles per gallon
•65 m.p.h. – 34.9 miles per gallon
•75 m.p.h. – 29.8 miles per gallon
On a hypothetical 1,900-mile round trip from New York City to Disney World in Florida, the Camry would use 47 gallons of gas at 55 m.p.h.. But at 75 m.p.h., it would burn nearly 64 gallons – a $70 difference.
Ideally, if we all bought 45 m.p.g. Toyota Prius hybrids, US gasoline use would drop in half, from 9.3 million barrels per day, to under 5 million barrels a day. Of course, that won't happen.
So a practical and immediate response would be not only to drive slower, but also drive less. Government made that happen in World War II by limiting most drivers to four gallons of gas per week.
That's unlikely now. But consider this: If everyone could reduce their driving by just 10 percent, the savings would total nearly 1 million barrels of gasoline every day.
How much is that? Well, it amounts to about half our daily oil imports from Saudi Arabia. It also would be equal to the highest expected production of oil if we drill in ANWR. And we can do it today.
Mr. Pickens notes that America will spend $10 trillion in the next 10 years on imported oil. US wealth is draining fast overseas.
It's up to us. Save gas, and win this fight.
• John Dillin is a former managing editor of the Monitor.