The Campaign Spot

Proper Tire Inflation? Great. How About the Other Two out of Every Three Drivers?

The RNC is chuckling over Obama calling for voters to make “sure your tires are properly inflated” because “we could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires.”
RNC spokesman Alex Conant responds, “Obama’s solution to America’s energy crisis is inflating tires?! Maybe he’s been out of the country too long.”
I’ll give Obama a smidgen of credit, in that yes, having properly inflated tires can get you a few more miles per gallon.

“Running a tire 20 percent underinflated – only 5 to 7 pounds per square inch (psi) – can increase fuel consumption by 10 percent. That can easily cost motorists two or three miles per gallon. Not only that, but running underinflated also reduces the tire’s tread life,” said Bob Toth, Goodyear’s general manager, auto tires.

However, this doesn’t mean everybody can inflate their tires and get more mpg tomorrow. Survey information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that about one in every three cars has a significantly under inflated tire.
I’m doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how many gallons of gasoline that would save, daily and annually. But one of the problems of trying to contrast that total with the amount of oil produced domestically is that because of bans on exploration, it’s tough to get a solid number of how many gallons of gasoline could be produced, daily and annually, by additional drilling.
Back in 2006, I was underwhelmed when Democrat leaders’ national security plan included a federal “tire fuel efficiency program.”
UPDATE: This article from U.S. News and World Report says the average worker commutes 33 miles between work and home each day and that the average car gets about 24 miles per gallon. Thus, the average worker is using 1.375 gallons per day.
Let’s be generous and say a properly inflated tire gives a full extra three miles per gallon. So a commuter who had previously insufficiently inflated tires starts using 1.22 gallons per day. They’re saving .153 gallons per day.
This 2003 press release puts the number of commuters in America at a little over 129 million. So we have one third of those commuters – 43 million – saving .153 gallons per day, or almost 6.58 million gallons.
(If the benefit of properly inflated tires is at the lower end of the estimate, only an extra two miles per gallon, it would save 4.94 million gallons.) That is a nice healthy amount, even if getting 100 percent tire inflation compliance in the country is an impossible dream.
But this 2006 report from the federal Minerals Management Service puts the recoverable oil from the Outer Continental Shelf at just under 86 billion barrels of oil; one barrel of crude oil yields approximately 19.6 gallons of finished motor gasoline.
So it would indeed be nice if Americans pumped up their tires sufficiently, and we started seeing some of that 4.9 million to 6.5 million gallons saved per day. But why it has to be an either/or in regards to the 1.6 trillion gallons of gasoline in the OCS (not even getting into ANWR), as Obama insists, is not clear.
UPDATE: The PowerLine guys and Hot Air do their own calculations — and their sources state, “Proper inflation can also improve gas mileage by more than 3%, when maintained regularly.”
Hmm.  In my math above, I’ve got it improving gas mileage 8.3 to 12.5 percent…


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