3/5/2013 - Drive Wisely To Offset Rising Gas Prices
With demand for gas weaker than it has been in the past, one might expect that gas prices at the pump would be looking good but, as anyone who drives knows, gas prices are creeping closer to $4, even $5/gallon in other parts of the country and are probably heading higher as they often do in the spring. Reasons vary but the main culprits seem to be a rise in the price of crude oil futures, increased demand by China, retooling of refineries for summer gas, and reduced OPEC output. Whatever the reason, high gas prices take a bite out of every driving American's pocketbook.

Although there is nothing most of us can do about the factors noted above, we can all take a close look at when, why and how we drive with an eye toward reducing gasoline use, which will save money and reduce air pollution and our dependence on foreign oil.

Starting small can add up to big savings.

First, don't idle! Idling for more than ten seconds uses more gas than restarting your engine. Idling pollutes the air so it is bad for you, others around you (especially children), the environment, and your car. Check out the City of Summit idling flyer for specifics on the evils of idling.

Second, strive to drive smoothly. If your engine sounds like it's going into hyperdrive every time you accelerate, you are wasting gas. Accelerating and braking gradually, without any sharp starts and stops, uses less gas than lead-foot driving.

Third, take care of your car. Keep your tires inflated to the recommended level. Make sure your car is running efficiently by getting periodic tune-ups. Be sure to have your tires aligned, your air filter checked and your oil changed if needed.

Fourth, have a plan for errands. Try to combine as many as possible into one trip. Fewer trips means fewer dollars spent on gas and more free time for you.

Fifth, change your approach to transportation--walk or bike to closer locations, and carpool or take public transportation for longer trips. Even if you use alternate transportation only once a week, you'll be making a positive change. Start your kids out right by having them walk to school, a healthy and gas-saving habit.

Finally, the big ticket item. If it is time to get a new car, make fuel efficiency a priority when you research choices. The U.S. Department of Energy's fueleconomy.gov website says, "The difference between a car that gets 20 MPG and one that gets 30 MPG amounts to $898 per year (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.59)." Use its handy "Find and Compare" function to help you evaluate cars you are considering. Want to have some fun and learn about electric options? Check out the Tesla electric cars, either online or at the new Tesla showroom at the Short Hills Mall.

If you want to guzzle fresher air instead of gas and money, drive less and drive smarter. It's good for everyone.

By Beth Lovejoy, on behalf of the Summit Environmental Commission