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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- The Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico has come just as the busy summer driving season is getting underway. Not only do many increase the amount they drive, but traditionally, the price of oil rises.
The good news is that it's easier than ever for each of us as individuals to reduce our oil consumption, and save some money in the process. Technology and social networking, along with some common sense solutions, can save the average driver 275 gallons of oil per year, and reduce the average driver's carbon footprint by over 5 tons. If adopted by the country as a whole, these same steps could save America over 125 million gallons of oil every day, and reduce our carbon emissions by over 440 million metric tons - a savings greater than the total carbon emissions of California.
Ken Bradley from, Director of Environment Minnesota joined us on KARE 11 Sunrise with some of the easy oil saving tips.
1. Keep up on your vehicle maintenance. Keep your car working properly and it will run more efficiently, saving you oil. A regular tune up can improve your fuel efficiency by an average of 4 percent. Replacing a clogged air filter can add as much as 10 percent to your fuel economy. And make sure that you check your vehicle's owner's manual when you add motor oil. Using the manufacturer recommended motor oil or environmentally efficient synthetic motor oil can improve your fuel efficiency by an additional 1-2 percent. All told, an efficient engine will cut the average driver's gasoline use by over 46 gallons per year, saving you $139 and reducing your carbon footprint by 900 kilograms per year. If all Americans kept their engines well tuned, it would save over 10 billion gallons of gasoline a year, netting the economy over $30 billion and reducing our carbon emissions by 102 million tons per year.
2. Keep your tires inflated, and consider investing in low-rolling resistance tires. Keeping your tires inflated costs almost no money and can make your car 3-4% more fuel efficient. If all cars in the country kept their tires properly inflated, we would save almost 11 million gallons of gas every day, along with 100,000 tons of CO2. At $3 per gallon, you'll save over $50 per year on your gas bills. Advanced tires generate less friction with the road while you travel, which means less wasted energy for your engine. Low-rolling resistance tires have been found to reduce gasoline use by an additional 4%.
3. Drive conservatively. Adjusting the way you drive can make a big difference in getting greater fuel efficiency from your vehicle. When possible, try to maintain a constant speed, avoiding rapid starts and stops. While on the highway, avoid excessive speed; according to the EPA, every 5 miles per hour over 60 mph is the equivalent of paying 20 cents extra per gallon of gas. Cruise control can increase highway fuel efficiency by 7%. Avoid idling wherever possible; even during short periods of stopping, it's more efficient to turn your engine off and then restart than to leave it running. Roll down your windows to cool off at low speeds, but at high speeds use air conditioning, as open windows creates drag that reduces fuel efficiency. Overall, changing the way you drive can reduce fuel use by as much as 15%. That means over $175 per year in savings on gasoline, and over a ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere per person.
4. Plan your routes ahead of time. Computer and satellite navigation technology allows you to find more direct routes, saving you unnecessary travel. If you're considering buying a GPS system, think about spending a little bit extra for a system that warns you about traffic congestion. There are even systems that give you tools to minimize the environmental impact of your drive. Fuel efficiency GPS systems have been found to increase vehicle fuel efficiency by 12%. One study showed that if all U.S. drivers used satellite navigation technology, it would save 18 billion gallons of fuel per year, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 200 million tons.
5. Consider telecommuting as an alternative to the daily drive to work, and if you're an employer, consider allowing your employees to telecommute where possible. New technologies are making it easier and easier for American workers to do more of their work from home. According to a recent government study, the number of Americans working from home increased from 9.5 million to 11.3 million between 1999 and 2005. Another study indicates that as many as 50 million Americans could work from home either part-time or full time. Working from home saves Americans an average of 46 minutes a day on their commute, which adds up to over 100 hours a year wasted in traffic - more than many employees total annual vacation time. Similarly, if we replaced 10% of all conferences with teleconferences over the next 10 years, it would save 199.8 million tons of carbon dioxide.
6. Carpool, and encourage your employer to create carpool incentive programs. Currently only one in ten Americans carpools to work. Carpooling can cut your gasoline expenses and your commute's carbon footprint in half or more, while reducing traffic congestion and shortening your trip to work. Social networking websites like eRideShare have made it increasingly easy and convenient to match up with people with similar commutes. If every American who currently drove to work carpooled with an average of 1 other person, they would each save an average of $364, while reducing national oil consumption by 15 billion gallons per year and reducing carbon emissions by almost 300 million tons.
For employers, encouraging carpooling benefits everybody. Your employees will benefit from reduced stress and expenses, while you will benefit from reduced need for parking, greater morale and cohesion, and greater employee retention. Consider creating a carpool incentive program by offering flexible work schedules, prizes and other incentives to employees who carpool.
7. Try to find ways to use mass transit, walking and biking more. When you can walk, walk. When you have to drive, plan ahead and try to hit multiple stores in one trip. Purchasing locally made goods saves the oil necessary to ship freight around, and shopping online saves the gasoline costs of driving to the store. If you can cut back on unnecessary travel by an average of 10 miles per week, you'll save a half of ton of carbon emissions and over $80 per year. If everyone did it, it would save 5 billion gallons of oil per year.
8. Buy the most fuel efficient car that meets your needs. Once you have made the choice about what to drive, you will not be able to cheaply or easily change your mind if the price of oil increases. A car that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg) emits approximately 50 tons of global-warming-inducing carbon dioxide over its lifetime, while a 40-mpg car emits only 25 tons. At $3 per gallon, the average 40 mpg car will save you $900 annually in gas prices over a 20 mpg car; if gas prices increase to $4 per gallon, that rises to $1200, and it rises to $1500 if gas sells at $5 per gallon.
9. If you're choosing a home, find one that's close to your work, and where walking, biking and public transit are convenient alternatives. Communities that are compact, oriented towards mass transit, and zoned for both residential and commercial purposes are safer, healthier, cleaner, and allow people to save gasoline and reduce their environmental impact. If all housing starts built in the United States were based on these principles of 'smart growth', the United States would save 49.5 billion gallons of gasoline, 595 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and $2.18 trillion. Similarly, locating your home close to your work can save a lot of gasoline. On average, out of every dollar saved by a family moving out into the suburbs, 77 cents is lost due to increased cost of transportation. The average commuter will save 125 gallons of gasoline per year by moving 5 miles closer to work.
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