Some Gas Price Pain Relievers for Drivers and One for the Presidential Candidates

Are you hitting the road for the long weekend? I am. Henry James wrote that the two most beautiful words in the English language are “summer afternoon.” For me, the ideal summer afternoon means walking with my husband and daughters alongside our favorite lake in the Adirondack Mountains. The only trouble is we have to drive there.

Americans look to this holiday weekend as a chance to embrace the joys of summer. But with gas prices so high, many will be sticking close to home instead of driving to their beloved beaches, forests, picnic grounds.

It is a sad irony that, come Independence Day, many Americans won’t feel free to spend an average of $4.19 a gallon to travel to their favorite Fourth of July festivities. When your jaw drops at the gas pump this weekend, you can thank President Bush and the Cheney Energy Plan for failing miserably at making America energy independent.

Digging out of the hole they made will take years. In the meantime, there are some things American drivers can do to make summer travel easier. Luckily, the Prius my husband and I bought a few years ago will help us handle our sticker shock as we drive from New York City to the Adirondacks. But even if you don’t own a hybrid, there are simple steps you can take to save gas as you head out this weekend on your summer adventures.

In fact, if you follow the suggestions laid out by NRDC car experts, you can save as much as $800 a year in gas prices. Click here for the savings you can reap from the 10 best-selling cars.

 Maintain and Drive Well

  1. Pump It Up: Check your tire pressure. Properly inflating tires or buying low-rolling resistance tires could increase fuel economy by 3 percent or more.
  2. Get in Tune: Take your car in for regular maintenance. A poorly tuned or poorly maintained engine can increase gasoline consumption by as much as 4 percent.
  3. Use Good Motor Oil: Use the motor oil grade designed for your engine and choose a fuel-efficient oil marked with the “Energy Conserving” label. Using a friction-reducing formula in the right grade can improve fuel economy by up to 2 percent.
  4. Lighten the Load: Removing heavy items from your trunk and roof racks can improve fuel economy by 2 percent.
  5. Slow It Down: Ease up on the pedal. Slowing down from 75 to 65 miles per hour will drop your highway gasoline consumption by about 15 percent.
  6. Cut the Engine: If you’re waiting to pick up a teenager or trapped in a huge traffic jam, turn off your engine. Across the country, idling cars waste millions of gallons of gasoline every day. If your wait is longer than 30 seconds, restarting the engine uses less gas than leaving it running.

And One for the Presidential Candidates

I don’t know what Senators McCain and Obama are doing this weekend, but I can say with certainty what I hope they will do in the coming months: make creating a clean, sustainable energy plan a priority of their campaign and administration. The Bush administration’s response to this crisis is to offer the same dead-end solutions that landed us here in the first place: drill more, make more inefficient cars, and ignore growing global competition for a declining resource.

Cleaner, economic solutions are available right now, things like plug-in hybrids, better designed cities where we do not have to drive as much, and sustainable fuels like cellulosic biofuels. But experience has shown that without strong leadership, these solutions will be undermined by the fossil-fuel industry.

That’s why I hope Obama and McCain will be thinking about real energy independence this Independence day.