digging your own gasoline grave
By Jake Williams
October 2, 2006 | Logan drivers are in a hurry to get
nowhere, meaning there's no noticeable difference whether
we're driving to Wal-Mart, campus, or the hospital.
Then we bitch about gas prices. If that doesn't strike
you as paradoxical, the impending knowledge will provide
Jon Stewart-level enlightenment. There are basically
three factors that determine how much a person spends
on gas per month: the amount of gas used per mile, miles
driven per month, and the price paid per gallon. Expressed
(Gallons / Mile) x (Miles / Month) x (Dollars / Gallon)
= Dollars /Month
The first factor, the area in which we can improve
most, involves maximizing the efficiency of our cars.
Everyday driving habits significantly help or hurt us
at the pump and our driving habits are less than admirable
considering America uses more fuel than any other country,
about 25 percent of the world total.
Here's how we can improve efficiency:
-- Drive like the stereotypical old woman. An accelerating
or decelerating car burns more gas than one maintaining
a constant speed, and radically changing speeds unnecessarily
burns a tremendous amount of gas. Controlling speed
changes is the easiest and most effective way to better
-- Don't turn when the road is straight. Most people
realize friction reduces efficiency, but fewer realize
that turning results from increased friction on a car's
front tires. The straighter a car travels, the less
fuel is squandered to overcome this friction. Instead
of zigzagging, pick a spot down the road (hopefully
in front of you) and drive straight to it.
-- Drive a smaller and more fuel-efficient car. This
is tough for college students who have few choices due
to limited funds, but fuel-efficiency should be a car-buying
priority. The most economical cars are, like beautiful
women, younger and lighter. Lighter cars have less inertia,
the physical property that resists change in speed,
meaning they require less gas to accelerate. Smaller
cars also have less aerodynamic drag. When a car travels
at constant speed, the energy converted from the fuel
balances the drag from air resistance and mechanical
friction. Smaller frontal areas produce less drag and
-- Shift properly if you have a manual transmission.
If fourth gear is acceptable at a given speed, don't
use third gear with higher RPMs. Also, up-shift earlier,
before RPMs elevate because engines use more fuel at
-- On freeways, travel at the most efficient speed.
This is the lowest speed you can sustain in your highest
gear without down-shifting (automatics) or lugging (manuals).
Above this speed, fuel levels drop faster than presidential
The next factor involves cutting down on driving distances.
Too often, we drive alone to somewhere close by. Try
walking next time you go to the gym, and when you go
to school ride a bike, use the campus shuttle, or carpool.
If two cars each take one passenger, using one car can
cut the distance driven in half and use half the fuel.
This is why buses that get only 3 miles per gallon are
economically rational options. When 40 passengers use
the bus, the distance driven is reduced by a factor
of forty. Forty cars would have to average 120 mpg to
equal that efficiency.
The final factor is lowering the price per gallon
of gas, a complex problem. Figure this one out and you'll
win the Nobel Prize for economics or get assassinated
by OPEC (or both). To lower the price per gallon, widespread
action must be taken because OPEC's influence renders
an individual's actions inconsequential. Examples of
such widespread actions include mass boycotts of overpriced
oil and using alternative fuel sources such as the sun
Reducing our need for gas is the best way to lessen
the amount spent on it. Increasing efficiency is the
most convenient factor for improvement, but additionally,
driving distances can be reduced. Another way is to
lower gas prices, but that requires action by the masses
as opposed to the individual. Through improved driving
habits, the amount an individual spends on gas can decrease
dramatically. Fortunately, this will also lead to a
decrease in "bitching."