Inflating Your Tires Really Helps

In July of 2008, Obama suggested a simple solution to save energy and relieve our dependence on offshore drilling. He stated that properly inflated tires and regular tune-ups would save just as much energy as what was being generated by drilling. Needless to say, there were a few skeptics.

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Then, in March of 2010, Obama announced a plan to tap an oil supply of approximately 400,000 square miles along the us coastline, specifically, the mid atlantic, south atlantic, and eastern gulf of mexico. These drilling sites would yield roughly 2.5 to 4 Billion barrels.

To compare, Obama’s plan for properly inflating tires assumes that the average American automobile has tires that are under-inflated by 6-10 Psi, gets 25 miles per gallon, and is driven 13000 annually. With an estimated 235 million trucks and cars on the road, and an increase in 1.5 percent per year, the predicted number of barrels saved by properly inflating tires is approximately 3 billion barrels by 2030 which is 3-4 percent of our total oil consumption. This is more than a year’s supply of imported oil from OPEC nations and is very close to the amount of barrels generated by offshore drilling.

Also, the potential oil yield from offshore drilling would not be readily available for several years, and the supply is limited, while properly inflating tires has an immediate effect on energy savings, and its effects are indefinite. Not to mention that many gas stations provide free air pump usage with the purchase of gasoline.

If properly inflating tires actually does save as much energy as offshore drilling would generate, and is a cheaper alternative, why aren’t most Americans doing it?

References:

1) http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html

2) http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/225/could-we-conserve-gasoline-by-putting-more-air-in-our-tires

3) http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html

4) http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2008/aug/05/barack-obama/not-overinflated-though-it-sounds-like-it/

5) http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/03/31/us-usa-oil-drilling-idUSTRE62T06520100331

6) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=check-up-on-obamas-energy-plan-infl

7) http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com/archives/2008/08/fill_those_tire.php

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Inflating Your Tires Really Helps

  1. kareemelsadi

    This post caught my attention because it harks back to Dr. Webber’s assertion that there is a culture in the United States of seeking new sources of energy rather than improving the way we use it now. It’s a shame that people disregard suggestions such as the inflating tires as being inconsequential – “common” sense fails the vast majority unfortunately.
    Part of the problem is that too many of the country’s leaders and role models are far too incompetent in areas of science and technology, and yet insist on chiming in, providing their 2 cents, and misleading everyone because it can get them ahead. What am I referring to exactly? From your 4th source, the Politifact article, I excerpted the following
    “Sen. John McCain and his allies — who advocate lifting the federal moratorium that bans drilling in some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf off the U.S. coasts — immediately mocked Obama for the claim [inflating tires can reduce oil dependency]. The McCain campaign even offered to send “Obama Energy Plan” tire gauges to anyone who sent in a donation of $25 or more.
    The McCain campaign’s assumption seemed to be that Obama’s claim was utterly implausible.”
    This from a man who was on the footsteps of leading the most powerful, and arguably one of the most advanced nations in the world.
    It is imperative that leaders begin to get together and form and implement concrete plans, especially those as simple as inflating tires, in order to mitigate the country’s energy concerns. Maybe a few classes of community college to replace their “common sense” with real knowledge would help; even John McCain could use a refresher course it seems. The idea that money and power buys knowledge seems rampant in our country’s leaders, and they will drive it into the ground if they continue to speak out in ignorance against solutions that can only help, and cost nothing.
    Enough venting – this posting led me to thinking, what other strategies could we implement to help mitigate energy concerns of all kinds? The opportunities are seemingly infinite. We could start by taking a page out of the everyday-European’s handbook and learn that living on less does not mean a lower standard of living. It just maximizes resources so that nothing goes to waste; as an example, the culture of driving gas guzzling, inefficient, oversized obnoxious vehicles in the country that too often carry a single passenger the majority of the time, must change. Whether through taxation or by personal conviction, people need to begin to choose the more efficient options available in the market, so that evolution can weed out the old, inefficient technologies.
    Lastly, I’ll leave a link in my sources below to encourage you to try and do what you can at home, to help mitigate the energy concerns as much as possible – everyone has a part to play, even if it just involves inflating your tires.

    1 – [http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2008/aug/05/barack-obama/not-overinflated-though-it-sounds-like-it/]

    2 – [http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/saving_energy/index.html]

  2. Well, modifying social habits (specially consumption related habits)
    is very challenging, and finds psychological roots as well as many cultural, commercial and political connections and barriers. In particular, in the American society where many commercial and industrial profits are often not in full harmony with promoting health, energy and good public education, this becomes more subtle.

    On the other hand, from the conumser’s point of view, comfort and simplicity are essential components, and people do not necesarily want to compromise them. yes, everyone prefers not spending
    too much budget on gas or electricity (although in an extreme case of luxury, one might not even not care and gets offended by anyone who repeatedly reminds you to do so), however, I think many prefer to do this in a simple way; People prefer buying off-the-shelf products with higher built-in efficiencies, which by the way have additional features that make them more appealing, rather than upgrading their old instruments
    or spending too much time caring about the details of what causes energy leakage in what they already have. I can make a very similar argument about food and health related issues: many people are aware of the health related issues of their eating, drinking and smoking habits,
    but is everyone willing to compromise their joy, or go through the difficulty of changing their habits?
    To me it is not very strange that many people do not
    bother to inflate their tires so that they are more gas efficient. If you look at statistics on what makes driving less efficient (see for example [1]), flat tires is not top of the list. aggressive (insensible) driving can reduce mpg by 33%, specially driving in highways. over-speed driving can lead to up to 23% more gas usage. Engine maintenance can rise the efficiency by 4%, and so on.

    What I want to get at here is that regulating manufacturers to upgrade the energy efficiency of their products, or food industries to control
    the nutrition values and publicize the information (as has been done), has probably more positive effects than pushing hard to change social habits in a large scale way and in the short run.

    I would like to point to an article I found on a related topic [2]. What this article shows is that there is a variety of strategies that government uses to enforce certain consumption policies when it comes to energy usage or health, but the very last strategy mentioned is “education”. Prior to that regulation (mostly for manufacturers or home builders as far
    as I understand from the article), Taxes and rebate policies, subsidies and procurement are the listed tools. It is also my belief that education is necessary, but it is the most time taking form of implementing energy efficiency policies and has to be done is a subtle way.

    [1]The official U.S. givernment source for fuel economy information http://www.fueleconomy.gov
    [2]Diamond, R.C. and Moezzi, M., Changing Trends: A Brief History of the US Household Consumption of
    Energy, Water, Food, Beverages and Tobacco, Proceedngs of the 2004 ACEEE Summer Study, Pacific Grove, CA, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Washington, DC, Volume 10, p.1-12 (2004)

  3. dyank

    There are several reasons why it will be next to impossible to get Americans to properly inflate their tires, have regular maintenance done on their vehicles, and to drive slower.

    The first has already been mentioned in the previous posts. Changing societal behavior is nearly impossible. Until something is either forced upon the population or becomes a norm, very few people will do it. As was mentioned in class, lowering the speed limit is politically very unacceptable. Americans like to drive, and we like to drive fast.

    As for properly inflating our tires, most people don’t even regularly change the oil in their cars, much less think about tire pressure. Americans like things quick, simple and cheap, and proper maintenance on a vehicle is typically none of the above. These measures will be almost impossible to enforce as any type of policy mechanism as well. Who is going to enforce something like this? What will be the penalty for it? If it is a fine, forget it. People would rather pay a little extra than take the time to do these things. Lowering the speed limit is the most viable option, but as I said before, it is politically extremely unpopular.

    Unfortunately, in a war between vehicle maintenance and drilling for oil as a solution to some of our energy problems, drilling is going to be the hands down victor.

  4. kheadlee

    I recently purchased new tires for one of my vehicles, and this post made me curious as to what the tire manufacturer had to say regarding proper tire inflation. So I dug through my glove box looking for the tire warranty I received. According to the Firestone Tire Warranty, Maintenance and Safety Manual, tire pressure should be checked monthly [1]. Tires can lose up to 1 psi (pound per square inch) of pressure every month under normal conditions, and can lose an additional 1 psi each time the average temperature drops by 10° F (5.6° C).

    As a case study, let’s assume your tires were properly inflated when you checked them in August. For Austin, the average temperature in August is 84.9° F [2]. Like most of us, let’s say you forgot to check them again until January, when the average temperature is 50.1° F. That is a span of 5 months, during which your tires could lose 5 psi, and a temperature drop of 35° F, which could equate to another 3.5 psi drop in pressure, for a total pressure loss of 8.5 psi. If your proper tire inflation is 32 psi, this would be about a 25% loss in inflation, which would equate to approximately a 20% decrease in fuel economy by the time January rolls around [3].

    It’s not that tough to use a tire gauge, and last I checked air costs no more than a dollar at most service stations, and can usually be found for free. A good public relations campaign equating proper tire pressure to how much money you can safe at the pump would be a good start at changing personal behavior toward this extremely easy energy saver.

    [1] http://www.firestonecompleteautocare.com/catalog/full-warranty.pdf
    [2] http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=45227
    [3] http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/225/could-we-conserve-gasoline-by-putting-more-air-in-our-tires

  5. akhil123

    Tire pressure is a serious problem in the trucking industry as many of the accidents caused are attributed to incorrect tire pressure. Real time monitoring of tire pressure has been a topic of research in the past few decades and there are quite a few patents on tire pressure monitoring systems.

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=IIwJAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&dq=truck%20tire%20pressure%20and%20accidents&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=truck%20tire%20pressure%20and%20accidents&f=false

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=P7UjAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&dq=truck%20tire%20pressure%20and%20accidents&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=truck%20tire%20pressure%20and%20accidents&f=false)

    Also, there are some commercially available automatic tire inflation systems (http://www.tireinflation.com/) which monitor the tire pressure real time and inflate the tires as and when necessary. Utilization of such systems can greatly reduce the ill effects associated with incorrect tire pressure.

  6. We don’t keep our tires properly inflated because we are lazy, energy we buy in the form of gasoline is relatively cheap and there are no feedback systems in our cars showing us how much money we are wasting by not having our tires properly inflated.

    Showing consumers feedback on the energy usage is key. According to the article “Advanced Metering Initiatives and Residential Feedback Programs: A Meta-Review for Household Electricity-Saving Opportunities” just showing people their electricity usage influences them to reduce their usage by 4 to 12%. I submit that showing drivers the energy and money they are wasting by driving around on under inflated tires would incite people to change their behaviors in a meaningful way.

    I ride my bike around Austin all the time and often commute to and from school on my bike. I keep my tires well inflated because I have constant feedback about the tire pressure, extra effort needed to get from point A to point B.

    Real time feedback is key!

    Link to article cited above: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.energycollection.us%2FEnergy-Metering%2FAdvanced-Metering-Initiatives.pdf

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