How To Cut Your Fuel Bill By 10%
The auto industry would like you to think that the only practical way to save real money on fuel is to buy a particular fuel efficient car. Billions of marketing dollars are spent greenwashing this message across all available communications channels in both the virtual and real worlds.
The kernel of truth inside the marketing message is of course that the car industry has never been better at driving each drop of gasoline further - frenetic research is done inside every car company aimed at improving aerodynamics, reducing weight, slashing friction and boosting combustion efficiency.
It's still a fundamentally absurd proposition: spend $30 grand to start saving money on fuel. (However, fuel economy is absolutely something you might want to consider carefully when it's time to purchase a new car.)
The easiest way to start saving money on fuel now is actually a lot cheaper, a lot simpler - and it won't cost you a red cent.
You just have to start driving differently.
Most drivers in the developed world would easily cut their fuel consumption by 10 per cent just by driving differently - and not ridiculously so. I'm not about to suggest turning the a/c off and winding the windows up this coming summer.
Cutting your consumption is a lot less draconian than that. In simple engineering terms the accelerator on your car is connected to a tap that empties the gas tank. It also empties your wallet, vicariously. It also pumps CO2 into the air, and increases national dependency on foreign oil.
The harder you turn on the tap, and the longer you leave it on for, the quicker the wallet-emptying, CO2-emitting, energy security-eroding processes are achieved.
In order to save money, protect the planet and reduce foreign oil dependency, all you need to do is: be gentle with the tap. When traffic lights go green, don't accelerate away as if the chequered flag has just dropped at Indianapolis. When the lights go red up ahead, shut the tap off early and use the hi-tech miracle of momentum to get yourself to the stop line (rather than powering up and slamming on the brakes). On highways and arterial roads, try cruising at a constant speed.
That's all it takes. Drive a little more like Miss Daisy is in the backseat (though not ridiculously so).
Give it a go. You'll see how easy it is to cut your fuel bill by 10 percent - maybe more. (This will be a challenging exercise for Type A drivers. You know who you are...) Thankfully, driving in this way won't cost you a second in commuting time (traffic lights being the great leveller there) but it will also deliver a saving in servicing costs.
Fuel economy numbers are absolute, achieved by rigorous, laboratory-standardized testing, and declared loudly for each new model. But they fail to acknowledge the biggest single variable in the real-world driving equation - the driver.
Saving 10 percent on your fuel bill just by modifying your driving is the same as cutting something like 40 cents off each gallon of gas you purchase. If every American driver started doing it spontaneously, today, the country would be almost 18 million gallons less dependent on foreign oil every day.
There is also a fixed proportional relationship between burning gasoline and emitting CO2. Burning a gallon of gas produces 19.64 pounds of CO2 - a relationship locked into the fundamental chemistry of combustion, which can't be subverted by clever engineering. This means that going easy on the gas pedal could potentially trim US greenhouse emissions by around 175,000 tonnes of CO2 - every day.
It really doesn't matter what your basic motivation is. If you want to save money, or if you want to save the planet, or if you care about boosting national energy security by cutting dependency on foreign oil, the solution is the same.
Going easy on the gas pedal is one of those serendipitous cases where three vastly different motivations can be satisfied by the one simple behaviour. (And sorry, car makers: there's really no need to spend any money up front to get this particular job done.)