Monday, June 23, 2008

Beating The High Cost Of Gas

Keep in mind that sustained high oil costs, and high energy costs in general, are the fastest way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and quit our “oil addiction.”

That said, consumers and whole economies are expected to suffer considerable pain as they adjust to stratospheric prices at the pump. Pain is something most like to avoid.

Currently there are no easy-for-everyone, low-cost, ready-to-go, solutions for cutting fuel consumption dramatically. Blame this on vehicle manufacturers who’ve been dragging their feet on fuel economy and politicians who refuse to force them to build more efficient cars and trucks.

Anyway here are some ways to save:

- Do a cost analysis of trading the old vehicle for one that gets significantly better fuel economy. Base that analysis on fuel that costs twice what it does now (currently about $4 a gallon in the US for regular). Include in that analysis the premium you will pay for a now-in-demand efficient car or truck and how long you would expect to keep it. If the analysis works in your favor, buy as soon as you can.

- Don’t buy a vehicle that requires high-octane gasoline unless the manufacturer specifically says its OK to run it on regular gas. Get it in writing.

- Rent vehicles for specific purposes. Do you really need a truck or van every day just because you occasionally need to haul something big and heavy? Most of the time you’re probably only hauling yourself around. Rent a truck, van or SUV when you need it.

- When running errands ask a neighbor if they need something while you’re out. Likely they’ll return the favor. Eventually you’ll be setting up a car pool for errands.

- Make lists before you run errands. Buy everything while you’re out. Don’t make a special trip for one purchase.

- Shop on the Internet. Let your purchases be delivered to your door.

- Set up car pools for commuting to work.

- Learn to drive for fuel economy. Use cruise control whenever possible for a few extra miles per gallon. Shut off your engine at long stop lights. Drive with a light foot on the accelerator pedal. Don’t speed up hills. Coast down the other side. Don’t drive faster than about 60 miles per hour.

- If you live in a flat or mildly hilly area ride a bicycle occasionally. If you live in a hilly area buy an electric-assisted bicycle if you don’t like to sweat. If you want no pedaling at all try an electric scooter of some kind.

- Newer cars rarely need tune-ups but make sure your air filter is changed regularly and tires are properly inflated.

- Without going too far out of your way, buy the cheapest gas around. In a market economy consumers are supposed to control costs by shopping for the least expensive price.

- Consider moving closer to your job or conveniences or mass transit. That would be a drastic change that would require wading into the dangerous waters of a scary real estate market.

That’s what you can do on your own. You can also write letters to your Congressmen and complain.

The group Consumer Watchdog thinks oil prices are disconnected from the fundamentals of supply and demand, particularly the historic one-day run up of nearly $11 a barrel to $138 on June 6.

The group wants Washington to step in, and provides the following recommendations to bring down prices:

- Pump some of the good-for-making-gasoline, light, sweet crude from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

- Close the Enron Loophole in commodity trading regulation. Closing the loophole, which exempts certain kinds of electronic trading from US regulation, would help stop out-of-control speculative oil pricing. Congress has passed a new version of a farm bill that would close the loophole, but President Bush says he wont’ sign it. Congress must now override the veto.

- Increase margin funds that traders must put up in energy markets to help suppress speculation. Currently, traders only have to put up 5 - 7 percent of the worth of the purchase, instead of the 50 percent required on stock trading. This makes it cheap to speculate.

- Regulate national gasoline supplies to control prices.

For now, consumers are on their own to deal with the problem. They’re getting increasingly wary and increasingly upset. Politicians know well: election time is near.


Link of interest:

Consumer Watchdog

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