Obama Was Right About Tire Gauges

Betsy Newmark chides Barack Obama for not “understanding the effect of taxes on businesses.”

He would give more of a McGovern-style handout to familes [sic] to help them buy the high-priced gas. That would increase demand and reverse any other efforts to lower prices unless there is a corresponding increase in supply. …

[…]

Drilling alone is note [sic] the solution, but it should be an integral part of a comprehensive plan. McCain is proposing more than drilling; he also supports research on alternative energy. The reason he focuses now on drilling is because of the contrast with Obama and the Democrats. Obama ridicules the focus on drilling because it will only come to the market several years from now. But how long before we get all those new alternative forms of energy up to speed to power our nation’s energy needs?

And what do consumers do in the meantime? This is precisely why fuel conservation measures — such as keeping your car’s tires fully inflated — are so important. But common sense is so boring, isn’t it?

It’s good that Betsy thinks drilling should be only one part of a comprehensive plan, but she apparently hasn’t heard that Obama agrees.

I’m also scratching my head over Betsy’s declaration that “a McGovern-style handout to familes [families] to help them buy the high-priced gas […] would increase demand and reverse any other efforts to lower prices unless there is a corresponding increase in supply.”

How is helping consumers pay for gas going to increase demand? What is the connection between money to buy gas, and demand?

The answer, of course, is none. Demand has nothing to do with gas prices. Demand for gasoline is what it is. It does not change that much. Neither does supply, unless it’s artificially manipulated.

The price of gas at the pump works differently from most other services and commodities, precisely because it is not primarily driven by supply and demand. It’s driven by how much of the supply is made available at any given time by the people or institutions that control it at the source, and it’s driven by the “just-in-time” production policy of most oil companies; i.e., having only enough supply on hand for immediate production needs rather than building up reserves. Doing it that way means that both the oil gatekeepers and the oil companies in essence can charge whatever they want to charge. They’ve got us over a barrel, literally.

There is no way that offshore oil drilling is going to change any of this in the short-term. And although drilling may increase the supply in 10 or 20 or 30 years, in a larger sense that’s not the solution, either. Oil is an addiction, because we (meaning Americans) are addicted to a lifestyle that is fueled with oil.

I know that not everyone defines the problem this way. But for those — like me — who do, Americans (not to mention the world) would be far better served by making serious efforts to conceptualize, design, and fund alternative sources of energy that are not fossil fuel-based. Obviously, that’s a long-term solution; it’s not going to start paying dividends for quite a while.

That doesn’t mean we have no power to affect how much we pay for gas though. There are things we can do that will help significantly right now, and in the next few years. One of them, as I said above, is keeping your car tires inflated, just as Obama suggested. For all the pointless, time-wasting fun McCain supporters have been having belittling Obama and handing out free tire gauges, they are the real fools, because he is right.

Here are a few other ways to save fuel and/or increase fuel efficiency, courtesy of Newshoggers’ Fester:

  • Passing and strictly enforcing legislation mandating a 55-mile-an-hour speed limit nationwide.
  • Keeping the trunk and back seat areas of your car free of luggage and other heavy objects. (Fester doesn’t say this, but I read it recently at another blog.)
  • Cooling the war rhetoric with regard to Iran and changing the perception that war is imminent. (Fester adds that to a large extent this has happened.)
  • Changing the funding formulas for mass versus individual transportation so that incentives for using public transportation and private automobiles are equalized. (Right now they favor automobile use.)

19 Responses to “Obama Was Right About Tire Gauges”

  1. gcotharn says:

    Obama said proper tire inflation would conserve energy equal to “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.”

    Obama could have responded to the resulting brouhaha by saying: I got a bit carried away. He could have laughed at himself. Instead, he responded with a quick series of (unintentional? or strategic?) false statements, as outlined in this short post from Powerlineblog.

  2. tas says:

    How is Obama wrong? If motorists kept their tires inflated properly, the energy conserved would eventually be equal to the oil we get from offshore drilling — if not in a decade then in a century. So I don’t see where this is a stretch.

    In fact… “according to the Auto Alliance of BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Mazda, Mercedez Benz, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, and Volkswagen … The Department of Energy estimates that 1.2 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in 2005 as a result of driving on under-inflated tires.”

    McCain and his defenders are implying that Obama is being silly, talking about small potatoes. You’re all wrong. Instead of claiming that Obama made false statements, why not admit that you’ve made errors? Then check the PSI on your tires.

  3. Kathy says:

    But since most people know this and inflate their tires the actual potential savings is some much smaller amount.

    gcotharn, how can you trust the accuracy of anyone who writes something like the above? “most people”? “some much smaller amount”? First, John is “assuming” that “most people know this.” Assumption is not fact. Second, “knowing” something and “acting” on that knowledge are two different things. There is no logical connection between “knowing” that keeping one’s tires inflated will improve gas mileage and actually doing it. We’re talking about human beings here. Human beings do or fail to do lots of things that unnecessarily cost them money — leaving all the lights on in the house, keeping appliances plugged in when not in use, leaving their car idling in the driveway for 20 minutes, and on and on and on.

    Many, if not most, proponents of oil drilling seize on it and push it without noting that it is not going to lower oil prices for at least a decade. It’s dishonest to play down or omit that reality while simultaneously ignoring or mocking suggestions for ways people can save money on gas AND conserve the supply of gas (fuel efficiency) *right now.* Of course it’s not the sole solution to our energy problems, but *neither is oil exploration and drilling.* And supporters of the latter are just as guilty — arguably more guilty — of not making that clear.

  4. Kathy says:

    Just to be clear, the italicized quote at the top of my comment is from John at Powerline, which gcotharn used to prove that Obama made “false statements.”

  5. Kat says:

    To add to your list on how to save on fuel: 1) Curb road rage. Speeding, rapid acceleration (jackrabbit starts), and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds. Drivers can save up to 80 gallons of gasoline, or up to $310, by driving sensibly on the highway. 2) Inflate Your Tires. Keeping your tires properly inflated is simple and improves gas mileage by around 3%, saving up to 20 gallons of gasoline, or up to $75. 3) Decrease Your Speed. Speeding costs! Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 mph. Each five miles per hour over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon for gas. Try checking out http://www.drivesmarterchallenge.org for more tips. – Kat, Alliance to Save Energy

  6. gcotharn says:

    tas,

    I respect that you are making a reasoned argument.

    You are correct that Obama would eventually be proven correct. However, I still believe Obama’s comment was silly:

    1) b/c it clashed with voter common sense, and
    2) b/c of the math:

    Tire pressure energy conserved (calculations available on request):
    a) would take 300+ years to equate to the 18 Billion barrels in the OCS
    b) would take (in almost anyone’s calculations) 1000+ years to equate to the 1 Trillion barrels in U.S. oil shale.

  7. gcotharn says:

    Kathy,

    First, it would’ve been polite to respond:

    gcotharn,

    The Obama quote you cited prompted me to edit out some of the invective which was directed at those who criticized Obama. Thanks for citing that quote.

    Second:

    I’ve been wondering, based on some of your comments and noncomments, if you believe disproving an opinion on a secondary issue equates to disproving a primary issue. I trust this is not the case.

    I guess I’ve expected, in some instances, to see you either concede some points, or continue to vociferously contend against them, or maybe note that we must agree to disagree. Instead, you’ve gone silent on some things at what, to me, were odd moments to go silent.

    For example: I hope you are not implying that a quibble with John at Powerline’s math somehow negates my primary point that some of the invective you originally directed at Obama’s critics was unjustified.

    As a second example: When I earlier apologized for mischaracterizing your assertion of my ignorance as an assertion of my insincerity: you graciously accepted my apology – which I greatly appreciate. However, you dropped the primary issue we were speaking of: profit morality/reality, without further comment.

    As a third example: though you vigorously attacked Allahpundit’s secondary argument about what constitutes proof that Obama is arrogant, you made no comment on his primary argument that Gergen’s standard means “there’s literally no non-racist way to accuse a member of a minority group of having an outsized ego.”

    Third:

    As to your comments about my citation of John at Powerline’s numbers:

    You make a fair point that John had unverifiable assumptions built into his math calculations. I just did the same thing above. Obama did the same. There’s no way to calculate tire pressure results without building in unverifiable assumptions.

    Fourth:

    Your comments about the guilt of supporters of exploring and drilling are noted.

  8. tas says:

    gcotharn:

    How much oil is contained in the OCS? You said 18 billion barrels, but a government study (headed by an oilman, which is possible a huge conflict of interest) says 89 billioon barrels. Nobody seems to know. Nobody seems to be questioning this practice of offshore drilling, either… Like what if (when) a mistake happens, what happens to the environment? How do we counterattack the damage it causes to our tourism industry which would cause our economy to lose money? Nobody is exploring these issues — OCS is being foolishly proffered by John McCain as a be all/end all solution to US energy issues, and hesitantly (but still foolishly) by Obama as part of the solution. But nobody really knows.

    So if you’re going to accuse Obama of making silly comments, why not mention this? And why not mention McCain’s larger role in propagating this silliness?

    As for the oil shale, that is not cheap oil. Shell has a risky plan to extract oil from the shale and if it works, they said that the first barrels of oil wouldn’t be derived until 2015. Furthermore, those first barrels of oil would cost around $90 a pop. That’s the best case scenario — if anything goes wrong, what happens? What changes?

    In the face of this, chiding Obama for asking an energy starved nation to practice conservation of resources is the only thing that’s silly. But in a nation that demands Hummers, air conditioning blasting at nipple hardening levels, and drive-thrus that serve food in 90 seconds or less, asking citizens to take some responsibility is just too much.

  9. Kathy says:

    gcotharn,

    First, it would’ve been polite to respond

    I haven’t a clue what you mean by this, or the snip addressed to you that you quoted just below it, which is not from me.

    I’ve been wondering, based on some of your comments and noncomments, if you believe disproving an opinion on a secondary issue equates to disproving a primary issue.

    No belief on that one way or the other. I don’t know what your specific reference is.

    I guess I’ve expected, in some instances, to see you either concede some points, or continue to vociferously contend against them, or maybe note that we must agree to disagree.

    We can agree to disagree.

    Instead, you’ve gone silent on some things at what, to me, were odd moments to go silent.

    Consider the possibility that silence denotes disagreement without a strong desire to continue the discussion. The nature of online conversations is that any party to the discussion can choose to continue responding, or not. No explanation is necessary, or expected, in most cases.

    Also, you might consider the possibility that I am a real live person with a nonvirtual life of my own, of which you know nothing. If I were just a collection of electrons dancing around in cyberspace, your confusion about why I don’t answer everything you say might be understandable. As it is, though, you need to remember that there may be things going on in my life that take up enormous amounts of my time and mental energy, so that responding to the latest comment or a past comment by someone on the Internet is low on my priority list.

    When I earlier apologized for mischaracterizing your assertion of my ignorance as an assertion of my insincerity: you graciously accepted my apology – which I greatly appreciate.

    You’re welcome.

    However, you dropped the primary issue we were speaking of: profit morality/reality, without further comment.

    Yes, I did.

    … though you vigorously attacked Allahpundit’s secondary argument about what constitutes proof that Obama is arrogant, you made no comment on his primary argument that Gergen’s standard means “there’s literally no non-racist way to accuse a member of a minority group of having an outsized ego.”

    Yes, I did, to both. The Allahpundit assertion you quote above was, to put it kindly, overly broad and not justified by the facts of the events under discussion. I didn’t feel like addressing it, however. If you want to know why, I’ll just say that some beliefs or assertions have so much ignorant and uninformed mental junk packed into them that (a) it’s too wearisome to try to unpack it, especially since (b) you know it’s not going to make any difference anyway. If you’re tempted to retort something or the other to this, please remember that you are the one who challenged me to explain why I *didn’t* respond to something that was said. Most people would simply assume, in that situation, that silence means you don’t want to go there, for whatever reason, and most people would take it for granted that that’s the nature of debate in cyberspace and not decide they had a right to know why there was no response. You, however, imply that I have an obligation to respond to every point made, and that if I don’t I must explain myself. I have done so, although in truth I didn’t have to — so that being the case, you get what you get.

  10. i told u gov. terminator said same thing

  11. gcotharn says:

    tas,

    No one is against conservation. The point is: improved tire pressure does not replace the economic benefit of drilling.

    If Obama wants to make an anti-drilling case which is based on ecology: great. If he wants to point to the risk to tourism: great. If he wants to point to the cost of oil shale: great. However, this is the case Obama was making: proper tire inflation would conserve energy equal to “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.” That is silly.

    I do appreciate your comments. You’ve made good points throughout.

  12. gcotharn says:

    Kathy,

    thanks for the courtesy of your response.

  13. tas says:

    gcotharn,

    If you’re going to accuse Obama of making “silly points”, then you have to do likewise to McCain. Besides including “offshore drilling” and “energy independence” in the same sentence, which is laughable, McCain’s website is full of questionable energy policies:

    “We have trillions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves in the U.S. at a time we are exporting hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas to buy energy.” Actually, the first biggest oil exporting nation the US purchases from is Canada — and third is Mexico. Hardly “overseas.”

    “John McCain Supports Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) And Believes They Should Play A Greater Role In Our Transportation Sector.” For those who don’t know what an FFV engine is — and to be blunt, that’s most of America — it’s an engine which can run on 80/20 ehtanol/gas mixes (E80). Right now, engines can run E10 blends which are 90% gas. FFV technology is only useful if we have enough ethanol to increase the ethanol blends in gas — which we don’t. And unless we want to feed ourselves, we may never have. So McCain’s throwing a nonsensical argument out there. That’s silly.

    More on ethanol: “Some choices such as ethanol are on the market right now. The second generation of alcohol-based fuels like cellulosic ethanol, which won’t compete with food crops, are showing great potential.” Eh, err.. Cellulosic ethanol (made from hearty plants like switch grass) will produce more ethanol — and ethanol will a higher energy output than can be derived from a corn stalk (corn gives us really shitty ethanol, but that’s another topic altogether), but we would also need to retrofit all ethanol refining plants with no equipment to process the tougher cellulosic plants. And if farmers make more money off switch grass than corn, guess what they are going to sell? When we discuss farming for energy needs and food crops, it’s all going to the same kitty — it all competes. We see this right now with corn prices spiking, food crises looming, and us deciding whether we want to eat this corn or drive with it.

    “Today, Isolationist Tariffs And Wasteful Special Interest Subsidies Are Not Moving Us Toward An Energy Solution.” If we knock down tariffs for energy independence reasons, it’s going to be tough to explain the flood of Brazilian sugar ethanol which hits our market.

    “John McCain Will Effectively Enforce Existing CAFE Standards. John McCain has long supported CAFE standards – the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet.” Oh boy! These are the same standards which allow Hummers to get 11 mpg because “there is no standard for a Hummer. That’s because really big vehicles — those weighing more than 8,500 pounds — aren’t covered by fuel-economy standards.” Enforcement of CAFE standards would do absolutely nothing to help us since they are already enforced. Revamping CAFE standards and forcing automakers to produce more fuel efficient cars sounds a lot better, and it’s something the first Bush and Clinton should have done.

    Anyways, all of this is sillier than Obama’s comments of asking us to be responsible. So where’s the uproar against McCain’s silliness? Doesn’t the lack of uproar illustrate a double standard and favoritism benefiting one candidate?

  14. gcotharn says:

    tas,

    You say:

    “So where’s the uproar against McCain’s silliness? Doesn’t the lack of uproar illustrate a double standard and favoritism benefiting one candidate?”

    Are you speaking of media having a double standard which favors McCain? If you are, we will have to agree to disagree.

    Your points might shine light on media failure to inform. In response to such failure, the posts at “Comments From Left Field” are making an admirable effort to pick up where the major media leave off. Your last comment is worthy of an individual blogpost of it’s own, imo.

    Are you speaking of me being unfair(?), as in your statement:

    If you’re going to accuse Obama of making “silly points”, then you have to do likewise to McCain.

    Are you looking at this from a perspective of “what is fair?” I invite you to look from a perspective of “what is true?” It’s so much more pleasant to team up and search for truth, as opposed to approaching issues as if one of us has to win and one of us has to lose. I must try, for myself, to also do better at remembering this.

    As to the issues raised in the bulk of your comment above: I’m one of those ignorant conservatives who doesn’t know jack about how much oil we purchase from overseas, or SSVs, or cellulosic ethanol, or CAFE standards. I will keep your opinions in mind. I do agree that McCain says some silly @#$%.

  15. tas says:

    gcotharn:

    Your points might shine light on media failure to inform. In response to such failure, the posts at “Comments From Left Field” are making an admirable effort to pick up where the major media leave off. Your last comment is worthy of an individual blogpost of it’s own, imo.

    I’ve noticed, here and other places, that I’ve been doing better comment writing lately than what’s contained in my few, if any, blog posts. I hate it when that happens. Heh. Basing an energy policy post off this comment would also have to be fair and take planks of Obama’s energy policy into account to see if it’s just as silly. Perhaps when I have a couple spare hours to put this together I can make a go at it.

    Are you looking at this from a perspective of “what is fair?” I invite you to look from a perspective of “what is true?” It’s so much more pleasant to team up and search for truth, as opposed to approaching issues as if one of us has to win and one of us has to lose. I must try, for myself, to also do better at remembering this.

    Focusing on “truth” in politics is difficult because, well.. I mean, I have my own reasons for supporting Obama. It’s not about his canards of “change” since I don’t think he’s that different, but as far as larger foreign policy issues go, Obama strikes me as less nuts. If another 9/11 happened, god forbid, I fear that a President McCain would be afraid not to show strength in any way possible, so he’d do something incredibly stupid like invade Iran. I just can’t trust the guy.

    So I have my reasons for ignoring “truth” in politics…. Platforms are filled with what people want to here. The issues a candidate professes to stand for doesn’t make a candidate. In 2000, Bush ran basically as a moderate Republican and an isolationist on foreign policy — once he got into office, his policy reflect neither of those tenets. So when applying the truth test to a candidate’s platform, part of me wonders if doing such is a useless exercise.

    Regardless, though, while we’re on the topic of truth…

    As to the issues raised in the bulk of your comment above: I’m one of those ignorant conservatives who doesn’t know jack about how much oil we purchase from overseas, or SSVs, or cellulosic ethanol, or CAFE standards. I will keep your opinions in mind. I do agree that McCain says some silly @#$%.

    It’s not really a matter of being an “ignorant [fill in the blank]” on these issues, but one of the real failings of the media is their seeming inability to educate the American public on the basics of issues. By and large, unless you’re a single student/part-time worker like myself with a couple hours each day to explore things in depth, you’re not going to know the particulars — and many people have families, overtime hours at jobs, other obligations… So unless our media cuts through buzzwords and educates people, we’re not going to know.

    So for example, flex-fuel engines (FFV) in automobiles. Brazil uses this as an asset to their energy needs, therefore companies like Ford will make it into a buzzword to sell vehicles. It’s an FFV engine, it’ll save you on gas!, right? Well, not really — you have to find an FFV fueliing station. There’s only around 1200 of them in America, most located in the midwest. Many states have less than 10 FFV stations. Will these stations increase in number? Perhaps, but there isn’t enough farmland in America to replace 80-85% of our gasoline with ethanol. So anyone — business or otherwise — citing FFV vehicles as one step we need to take towards energy independence should be given the hairy, I-think-you’re-a-snakeoil-salesman eyeball.

    FFV works in Brazil because they produce ethanol from sugar cane, which produces more ethanol of a higher energy output. And if their crops have a bad year, the flex fuel engines allow them to import oil and drive on straight gasoline. This also bleeds into the tariffs issue — right now, any sugar related product imported into the US is slapped with a tariff, including sugar cane ethanol from Brazil. The current tariff equals 54 cents a gallon. So when McCain’s platform said that we needed to remove tariffs to help guide our way to energy independence, my first thought was that axing the tariffs would lead to a flood of Brazilian ethanol coming here. Given that this is fuel coming from another country, that’s not exactly energy independence.

    Now I would expect people to know this if they had to research a science paper they had to write for class (which was my route — and even when given a science paper, I somehow find a way to research government policy with it — I think I have a complex), or if the media reported it. Which they don’t… Instead, it’s all about Obama’s tire gauges. Sigh.

    You can see where people on the left think that McCain is treated with kid gloves by the media now, too. Obama seems to receive criticism for anything he says, but when the energy policy on McCain’s website is filled with these gaffes, people like me bang their heads straight into their desks.

  16. Bryan says:

    This tire pressure thing is hilarious. It was fascinating how the support for Obama’s assertion came from a a link in a chain of sources. Set a good example, people, and go to primary sources to obtain support (and credit the link(s) in the chain that helped steer you in the right direction.

    Obama’s statement was ridiculous, and it was even more ridiculous if one has to take years upon years of tire inflation efficiency to make it good. The mainstream media (I have in mind PolitiFact at the moment) has done an extraordinarily poor job of fairly fact-checking Obama’s claim.

    Just to touch the tip of the iceberg, estimates for low tires tend to focus on one tire or more being under-inflated. Estimates for lost mileage tend to come from tests where all four tires are under-inflated. You can’t combine those two types of estimates without going way off track, yet that is exactly what many have done.

    The post at Power Line does a good job of peeking inside the black box of energy savings estimates. Here’s another one: Suppose you set the goal of always having your tires properly inflated. You can do a couple of things. You can buy your own tire inflater (it took oil to make it, more than likely). You can stop at an air station in your neighborhood.

    If you buy your own air station it has to get to your house somehow, and that is going to take gasoline.
    If you fill up in the neighborhood, that is going to take gasoline. In fact, you’ll often find yourself driving extra on under-inflated tires just to ensure that you’re driving on properly inflated tires.

    Here’s the bottom line: Nobody disputes that proper tire inflation helps save gasoline. Obama received ridicule because of his claim that the savings (added to the saving from properly tune cars) would match the oil gained from drilling. The numbers almost certainly do not add up in Obama’s favor, though I have yet to see anything like the thorough analysis it would take to absolutely rule it out. The more important point, as gcotharn pointed out, was Obama’s implicit argument that pursuing proper tire inflation might make domestic drilling superfluous. That is even more ridiculous, simply because the full savings from proper tire inflation/tune ups cannot be fully realized as a practical matter.

  17. gcotharn says:

    !! This is the first time anyone on this blog’s comments has supported any opinion of mine! Thanks, Bryan! I can retire from this blog with a happy smile on my face.

  18. Bryan says:

    gcotharn,

    Don’t get too excited. I’m a conservative. 🙂

    tas,

    As for the Mccain statement about spending trillions overseas, it seems to check out.

    6,243,000 barrels per day from overseas nations (that is, not counting Mexico and Canada). I’m counting South American nations as overseas since oil is more likely to come to us via ship from there rather than through the Mexican oil pipeline or long-haul trucking.
    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_oil_con-energy-oil-consumption

    I used the month of May 2008 as the baseline, which should provide a decent ballpark estimate.

    In 365 days at $100 per barrel that adds up to:
    $227,869,500,000 per year.

    I count anything greater than or equal to $200 trillion as hundreds of trillions of dollars.

  19. Bryan says:

    On the other hand, I need one more comma to get into the trillions. 🙂

    Billions will have to do–and it happens that’s what McCain said.

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