Monday, August 4, 2008

Important Facts About Energy Policy...and Your Tires

Energy policy is getting the attention it deserves in the current Presidential campaign. Unfortunately, most of the rhetoric is not sufficiently serious. That being said, some good ideas are being floated, even if they are being dismissed for political reasons.

Barack Obama, like John McCain, has supported specific energy policy ideas that I object to including subsidizing corn-based ethanol and, more recently, the windfall profits tax on oil companies. The McCain camp opposes both ideas and has rightly challenged these positions. Unfortunately, they have criticized some of his better ideas as well.

The most recent is Obama's suggestion that Americans prioritize keeping their cars' tires inflated and engines tuned. The RNC has actually begun handing out tire-gauges in an effort to mock Obama's energy plan and score political points.

But a recent article in Time magazine has made it easy to evaluate the merits of this proposal. You can read the entire article here, but the most important points are in the first two paragraphs which I will quote directly:

How out of touch is Barack Obama? He's so out of touch that he suggested that if all Americans inflated their tires properly and took their cars for regular tune-ups, they could save as much oil as new offshore drilling would produce. Gleeful Republicans have made this their daily talking point, Rush Limbaugh is having a field day, and the Republican National Committee is sending tire gauges labeled "Barack Obama's Energy Plan" to Washington reporters.

But who's really out of touch? 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 by 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone else did, we could reduce demand several percentage points immediately. In other words: Obama is right.

I encourage you to forward this article (or the blog post) to your friends. This is an easy way to elevate the debate (and also to help your friends save a bit of money!).


Unknown said...

If Barack Obama were a 55-year-old white dude, he would be ahead of John McCain by 30 percentage points.

Jared said...

Do you think he would have beaten the Clinton machine?

I think his unique personal story -a big part of which is tied to his racial/ethnic heritage - were a big factor in generating excitement for him on the left..

Unknown said...

An excellent point. I'm not sure! I think Hillary left a bad taste in people's mouths, and Obama's predominantly upbeat, hopeful message spoke to the people whom Hillary had rubbed the wrong way. Whether his race contributed, I'm not sure, but it certainly seems plausible!