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By Francis Koster, Ed.D.

The United States spends $1 billion every day importing petroleum. We literally export money that could be used to create jobs in order to fuel our cars.

One big misunderstanding in our society is the belief that if we drill for and produce oil from underneath the ground or water of the United States, the oil is “ours” — as if the oil becomes national property, like the Statue of Liberty or the Grand Canyon. This is not accurate.

Unlike most of the other oil producing counties of the world, which treat oil as a national asset and the country really does “own” it, in the United States we treat it like a natural resource to be sold on the global market — even to people who may want to hurt us. We simply lease drilling rights for a modest fee and step away.

Once pumped, the oil is actually owned by the multi-national energy companies that drill for it and sell it at auction. This means if the multinational oil company drills offshore and some of the oil leaks into the ocean and onto our beaches while the rest gets piped ashore, and China outbids the United States and buys the oil, then China gets the oil, the multi-national company gets the money — and we get only the mess. 

This explains why “Drill, Baby, Drill” does not increase our national security — it only increases global supply at auction. The only way we can increase our supply is to buy more.

Money moves through a community by being handed off from one family to another. For example, on a Friday, the air-conditioning repairman cashes his paycheck, buys groceries at the farmers market, picks up the dry cleaning, buys movie tickets for his family and pays the babysitter. At every step of the financial day, a job was supported. However, when our friend the air-conditioning repairman stopped to buy gas after the movie, he is sending a dollar overseas for imported fuel and weakening the local economy while raising unemployment.

Bottom line: The more we can reduce liquid fuel needs by local action, the better for everyone.

Individuals can implement three surprisingly effective strategies to reduce gasoline and diesel oil consumption. 

First, inflate your car’s tires. A vehicle’s gas mileage decreases 4 percent for every missing pound of tire pressure for just one tire. Research shows that 27 percent of passenger cars (that is, one out of every four cars and trucks on the road today) have at least one tire that is under-inflated by eight psi or more. Citizens of the United States could save $23 billion a year if everyone had their car tires properly inflated. Think of the jobs that would create! The correct tire pressure for your vehicle can be found inside the driver’s door on a little sticker — not on the side of the tire. The one on the tire is the range for use on all cars that the tire fits, but the one on the door is for your specific car model.

Second, have your gas cap checked for leaks. In program after program, approximately one in 20 cars tested has a missing or leaking gasoline cap. Each car with a leaking gas cap (which can leak regardless of the age of the vehicle) wastes an average of 30 gallons of fuel annually, or a total of around 147 million gallons of gasoline for our nation each year.

And last, change your oil regularly. Dirty oil can take up to one mile per gallon from you.

Some community groups run special programs at county fairs and ball games to help citizens get their tire pressure checked and gas caps inspected. Last year, the Center for the Environment at Catawba College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College collaborated to offer vehicle checkups. The event involves a very organized team of trained college students who assist in specific tasks such as checking gas caps, tire pressure and emissions. The entire process takes less than five minutes per vehicle and can save the driver money and a trip to their mechanic. Learn more about their program (and imitate it) at http://www.campaignforcleanair.org/ check-it-out.html. 

We can fuel our economy, save our citizens money and stop passing gas about how bad things are if we just take responsibility and implement known solutions. This is not up to elected officials, or big corporations. Let’s put the pedal to the metal on this one. It is up to me. And you.

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