Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich told Sean Hannity that Barack Obama's suggestion that properly inflated tires save gas will actually put more money in the pockets of greedy oil companies. First, who knew that Gingrich was an enemy of Big Oil?
Gingrich's information is impeccably sourced to an email from a former military officer who apparently asserted that the profit margins on air pumps are higher than those at gas pumps. As the highly partisan folks at Think Progress point out, gas station owners rather than Chevron-Texaco, BP, Exxon Mobil or Shell garner any profits from air pumps. So Gingrich is now evidently against small retailers.
In any case, how much gasoline might one save by properly inflating one's tires? Information varies. The folks at the consumer auto rating site, Edmunds.com, ran some tests and found only a modest improvement in gas mileage. Popular Mechanics cites U.S. Department of Energy figures that suggest that underinflated tires cost about 3.3 percent on fuel economy. PM further notes:
Will maintaining proper tire pressures make a huge difference in the enormous amount of oil we import? No. But it can make a dent, albeit a very small one. According to the Department of Energy, underinflated tires alone cost the country more than 1.25 billion gal. of gasoline annually—roughly 1 percent of the total consumption of 142 billion gal. According to the Annual Energy Outlook 2007, published by the Energy Information Administration, offshore drilling would increase domestic production of crude oil by only about 1 percent.
We opened this discussion with Sen. Obama's assertion that we can offset the need to reopen offshore drilling—and save money at the pump—by keeping our tires inflated properly. He's right, although he's ignoring the potential for making a serious dent in natural gas production rates.
Finally, inflating versus drilling is a false partisan dichotomy. Why not do both?