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Obama's Tire Gauge Solution

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[big]The Tire-Gauge Solution: No Joke[/big]

[smaller]Monday, Aug. 04, 2008[/smaller]

By MICHAEL GRUNWALD

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 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. 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 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

In fact, Obama's actual energy plan is much more than a tire gauge. But that's not what's so pernicious about the tire-gauge attacks. Politics ain't beanbag, and Obama has defended himself against worse smears. The real problem with the attacks on his tire-gauge plan is that efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis — the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less.

The RNC is trying to make the tire gauge a symbol of unseriousness, as if only the fatuous believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil without doing the bidding of Big Oil. But the tire gauge is really a symbol of a very serious piece of good news: we can use significantly less energy without significantly changing our lifestyle. The energy guru Amory Lovins has shown that investment in "nega-watts" — reduced electricity use through efficiency improvements — is much more cost-effective than investment in new megawatts, and the same is clearly true of nega-barrels. It might not fit the worldviews of right-wingers who deny the existence of global warming and insist that reducing emissions would destroy our economy, or of left-wing Earth-firsters who insist that maintaining our creature comforts would destroy the world, but there's a lot of simple things we can do on the demand side before we start rushing to ratchet up supply.

We can use those twisty carbon fluorescent lightbulbs. We can unplug our televisions, computers and phone chargers when we're not using them. We can seal our windows, install more insulation and adjust our thermostats so that we waste less heat and air-conditioning. We can use more-efficient appliances, build more-efficient homes and drive more-efficient cars, preferably with government assistance. And, yes, we can inflate our tires and tune our engines, as Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida have urged, apparently without consulting the RNC. While we're at it, we can cut down on idling, which can improve fuel economy another 5%, and cut down on speeding and unnecessary acceleration, which can increase mileage as much as 20%.

And that's just the low-hanging fruit. There are other ways to reduce demand for oil — more public transportation, more carpooling, more telecommuting, more recycling, less exurban sprawl, fewer unnecessary car trips, buying less stuff and eating less meat — that would require at least some lifestyle changes. But things like tire gauges can reduce gas bills and carbon emissions now, with little pain and at little cost and without the ecological problems and oil-addiction problems associated with offshore drilling. These are the proverbial win-win-win solutions, reducing the pain of $100 trips to the gas station by reducing trips to the gas station. And Americans are already starting to adopt them, ditching SUVs, buying hybrids, reducing overall gas consumption. It's hard to see why anyone who isn't affiliated with the oil industry would object to them.

Of course, in recent years, the Republican Party has been affiliated with the oil industry. It was the oilman Dick Cheney who dismissed conservation as a mere sign of "personal virtue," not a basis for energy policy. It was the oilman George W. Bush who resisted efforts to regulate carbon emissions. And most congressional Republicans have been even more reliable water carriers for the industry's interests.

John McCain has been a notable exception. He is not an oilman; he has pushed to regulate carbon emissions; and he opposed Bush's pork-stuffed energy bill, which Obama supported. He also opposed efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and until recently opposed new offshore drilling. But now that gas prices have spiked, McCain is running for President on a drill-first platform, and polls suggest that most Americans agree with him. It's sad to see his campaign adopting the politics of the tire gauge, promoting the fallacy that Americans are powerless to address their own energy problems. Because the truth is: Yes, we can. We already are.

Source: Time

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McCain would have Americans believe that government subsidized off-shore drilling will ease the inflated gas prices. Yes, by about 2 cents a gallon ten years from now. Meanwhile who do Americans think will provide the government subsidy? LOL It's pathetic.

I saw McCain's latest commercial last night. Wow, I didn't realize that Obama is actually "for unemployment". McCain is desperate. Bush lite indeed!

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Like it or not , and President be damn*ed , America is going to face 10+ hard years of possible recovery . You don't even own yourselves anymore . Were the Chinese or Japanese ever to call in their chips , you'd be bankrupt .

Remember 'Monopoly' - bankrupt !

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The election is in less than three months.....desperation is at a high point. I don't watch any of those commercials, for either side. And I hate those political commentators. At least some sports commentators have played sports before. Did any of those blowhards ever have a position in government?

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Jen, you might try watching George Stephanopoulos on This Week which is on ABC on Sunday mornings at 10:00 or 10:30 AM in most eastern markets.

He is the most articulate and most objective reporter on Washington and on politics in general. (IMO)

Prior to joining ABC News, Stephanopoulos served in the Clinton administration as the senior adviser to the president for policy and strategy. Yet during the primaries he never showed any favoritism toward Hillary and didn't hesitate to skewer Bill when he made an ass of himself.

I never miss this program.

I also think that Stephanopoulos would make an ideal candidate for office...perhaps even VP.

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obama is a evil man hwo is going to destroy our contruy what we need isnt some guy from a froigen place like alaska we need somebody who is gunna stand up n show those idiots in congress who really runs america!!! we need someone whos willing to impiment the gold standard again cuz this country has gotten in horrible debt from stupid presidents like clinton and nixon and our money is quickly losing its worth have you seen the euro????/ were way behind because we call it paper money when really it should just be called paper!!!! obama just expects us to make oil money

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mccain is a sleazebag whos sitting at the top of the republican party right now because no one else is stupid enough to run against the hyped up liberal candidates he doesnt have any good ideas and hes just in the running because hes a republican and they cant just try to have an election between two democrat candidates without breaking the constitution!!!

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Thanks for correcting me, Joe, I had forgotten about This Week on ABC....do they still call it that? I haven't seen it much since David Brinkley passed. That is a civilized show, and I like when they do the "Sunday funnies" segment.

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Yes Jen, it's still called This Week and Stephanopoulos is better than Brinkley (IMO). They still do the Sunday Funnies after the last break following the In Memorium segment on people who've died in the past week (including soldiers).

The opening guests represent each side of the election and then the Round Table usually includes George Will, Cokie Roberts and two other guests.

For the most humorous election and national news coverage I highly recommend The Daily Show with John Stewart on The Comedy Channel usually followed immediately by The Colbert Report. Hilarious fun that will have you literally laughing out loud as I did several times last night while watching the three shows I had DVRed from last week and from Monday night.

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