Why I Am a Fan of Tire Gauges: The Overlooked Potential of Efficiency

For the record, I have been a fan of the much-talked about tire gauge for years now. Long before it became a prop in this summer’s presidential campaign, I gave them away to friends and family. I even recommended them as stocking stuffers on the NRDC online Green Gift Guide.

I did this because presenting your loved ones with a tire gauge is like giving them free money, extra gallons of gas, cleaner air, or carbon offsets without the paperwork.

Why? Because keeping your tires inflated to the proper levels makes your car go farther on less gas.

Yet simple steps like these are getting a bad name this summer, despite soaring gas prices. Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times that energy efficiency has largely been ignored this season. Paul Krugman, also in the Times, wrote that tire gauges and other efficiencies are actually being viewed with scorn by some. Drilling, these folks say, is the muscular solution, while efficiency is weak and effeminate.

Proponents of drilling may like to believe this, but the numbers simply don’t back them up.

Pump Up Your Tires, Save Money, Save the Arctic

Here is just one example. When your new car rolls off the assembly line, standards require that the tires are inflated to the most efficient level. But if you need to buy replacement tires, no such standard applies. 

  • If manufacturers upgraded the quality of replacement tires, the United States would save 7.3 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years.
  • That is 35 percent more than the total amount of oil that is likely to be available from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge over the same period.

As Herbert wrote—and I have been saying here for months and the consulting gurus at McKinsey have confirmed—energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to tackle with the energy crisis and cut global warming.

In fact, efficiency is at the heart of why oil prices have dipped in the past few weeks: we are using less, so there is more oil on the market (see my colleague Deron Lovaas’ post on this).

The Cheapest Source of Energy Is Still Waiting to Be Tapped

Remember, the cheapest form of energy is the energy we don’t need to buy in the first place. And yet, even while Americans are worried about making their dollar stretch as far as it can, the tremendous power of energy efficiency is being dismissed.

Leadership is the missing ingredient. Strong, forward-thinking leaders would: 

  1. Show Americans that efficiency isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about ingenuity, high-tech solutions, and saving money.
  2. Enact policies that give car makers, tire manufacturers, and motor oil companies incentives to make more efficient products.

So ask your representatives while they are home on recess what they are doing to promote energy efficiency and protect your bottom line.