I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get 'sticker shock' every time I go to fill my car with gas. I've seen prices per gallon for regular gasoline here in the Los Angeles area as high as $2.69 9/10 lately. And it seems like only a few weeks ago, they were about $2.25 9/10. Mathematically speaking, that's a 19.5% increase in just a matter of weeks.
What is really insidious is that a significant rise in gasoline prices has a tremendous ripple effect throughout the entire economy. It raises the cost of doing business. When those costs get high enough, they are passed on to you and me in the form of higher prices. So this isn't just a matter of improving the environment, this is about economic survival!
We Must All Take Positive Action
I believe that we cause prices to decrease if we take collective action to reduce gasoline consumption. If we can reduce our national demand for gasoline, this certainly should eventually lead to stabilizing and possibly reducing the price we pay at the pump. And that will help stabilize prices throughout the economy. One of the great side benefits of this is that reducing our consumption of gasoline will also improve the environment'especially air quality.
Here are some suggestions. Some are things that you can do to immediately reduce your gasoline consumption/cost. Some require the cooperation with others. The cumulative effect of all these changes can be significant if everyone saves even a little:
- Make certain you car pool at least once or twice per week. Every person who carpools is one less person on the road.
- Work out an arrangement with your employer to shift your work hours to times when traffic is better. For example, if you come to work a couple of hours in the morning and leave a couple of hours early, you may be on the road when traffic is lighter. That should translate improved gas mileage.
- Work out an arrangement with your employer to work 10 hours a day 4 days per week. Employers still get the same number of work hours, but this reduces the number of days you have to come to work. The days off can vary by employee so that it doesn't disrupt business operations.
- Employers need to consider allowing some employees to telecommute. With high speed internet connections and VPN accounts, this is now more technically possible than ever. As long as the employee is self-motivated, this benefits the employer as well as the employee. Many times, employees who telecommute actually work longer on days they telecommute because of the reduced commute time. Also, they often eat at home during the work day reducing lunch times. And there are fewer interruptions so they can concentrate and be more productive. And the employee has less stress reducing sick time and increasing morale.
- Change one of your work days to a Saturday or Sunday. In most cases, traffic is lighter on the weekends, so you should get better gas mileage. And isn't it great to have a day off during the week to take care of personal things that are sometimes difficult to do on the weekends.
- Consolidate your trips. While reducing miles per gallon is important, the real savings come when you simply don't use the car at all.
- Set a personal goal to reduce your personal gasoline consumption by 10%. I recommend that you write this goal out on a card and tape it to the visor in your car so that you see it regularly. If you set a goal and review it often then you are more likely to take conscious action to achieve it. Too often, we simply get in the car and go without thinking of the consequences.
- Get a log book and start recording your gasoline consumption every time you go to fill up. Write down the mileage, number of gallons, price per gallon, total cost and your average miles per gallon. Then review the total figures at the end of each month. Once you get into the habit of writing down the information, it won't take much time. Just the act of recording this information will make you conscious of how much or how little you are using your car. That will make it easier for you to take action to reduce your consumption.
- The next time you get your oil changed, request synthetic oil. Yes, synthetic oil is more expensive. But, when I switched to synthetic oil a few years ago, my mileage improved by about 25%. That was in a different car than I drive now. I don't know if you will experience any change, but I bet you receive some improvement.
- Take your car to a mechanic to find out what actions you may take to improve your gas mileage. Maybe it's as simple as getting a tune up. Or a new air filter. Or air in your tires. Maybe using a fuel additive. The point is, if everyone takes steps to improve their mileage, it could have a huge collective impact.
- Reward gas stations with the best prices with your business. It's not as hard to find gas prices that are lower relative to other stations. If you have a warehouse club like Costco in your area, they usually have excellent prices. I estimate that I save at least $0,15 per gallon by getting my gas at my local Costco.
- Shop for the lowest gasoline prices in your area online. There are some websites that are posting the local gasoline prices throughout the country. If your area is covered, this can be a quick way to locate the best prices. One such site is called www.gasbuddy.com. What is really amazing is how the price can vary by as much as 20% within just a few blocks.
- Reduce your speed on the freeway. Did you know that most cars get their best gas mileage between 40-60 miles per hour? Those people that go flying down the freeway at 70-80 miles per hour are unnecessarily consuming more gasoline as well as putting people's lives at risk. I used to be in favor of the legal speed limit being raised to 65 miles per hour or higher. But knowing the savings we can all achieve if we just decrease the average speed limit, I think it's time we revisit going back to 55 miles per hour. I know this is probably going to be a hugely unpopular suggestion, but I feel it is important to make it anyway.
- Don't leave your car idling to heat up or for any other reason. Most cars today heat up quickly, so there is probably no longer any reason to waste gasoline this way.
- When you start from a stoplight or stop sign, accelerate gradually. When you accelerate suddenly, you consume more gasoline.
- Government officials need to revisit increasing daylight savings time. Studies have shown that overall energy decreases when daylight savings time starts. That's probably because there is less energy used in the evening since we have an extra hour of light. What would happen if we moved clocks ahead an extra half-hour or hour? I've noticed that when I get up in the morning, it starts getting light at about 6:30 here in Los Angeles. I imagine that there would be little negative benefit if we moved our clocks ahead and extra half-hour or hour to take full advantage of daylight. I think this would only work if it took place nationwide. We should also look into moving the clocks ahead earlier in March rather than waiting until April. If you think this is unreasonable, remember that daylight savings time used to start at the end of April until the U.S. Congress changed it by law.
- Large corporations should consider setting up small satellite work centers closer to where people live. Even having small offices in different locations where people can go and connect their laptop to a high speed internet connection can make it easier for some knowledge workers to reduce commute distances. The government should offer tax incentives to encourage this.
- Write your local, state, and national leaders and encourage them to show real leadership with respect to conservation. It is so easy to email leaders, I suggest that you email them with these and/or your own suggestions. It is shocking to me that prices could increase so dramatically with so little notice from our public and private leaders. We need to let them know that we expect them to display a higher standard of leadership. A large number of these suggestions involve a significant shift in the way we live and work. Many of these changes will not happen unless they are suggested and publicized by leaders at the national level.
It's Time To Change Our Habits--Probably Past Time
These changes will only change if there is a change in our national mindset'our national habits. We have been conditioned to believe that we have to work the hours we work. We have been conditioned to believe that the only effective way to work is to travel to a central location. That we have to physically be at the Corporate location in order to be productive.
Government leaders should offer businesses tax incentives to implement policies that encourage conservation and reduction in travel distances and times. They already do this to some degree with carpooling, but that's not enough. We simply must be more creative in finding ways to be more efficient and reduce the consumption of gasoline. Reduce demand and prices are likely to follow.
There are other suggestions I could make such as using public transportation or buying a fuel efficient car. Those should be pursued, but those are the standard answers and longer term solutions. Certainly we need to move in that direction for the long term, but given the recent dramatic rise in gasoline prices, out of necessity we need to take immediate action that will lead to lower prices in the short term while we also move towards long term solutions.
I know that some of these suggestions are radical. I know that many require the consent of people in authority over us'mostly our employers. And some require a certain amount of self-sacrifice (but not that much really if change some simple habits). The good news is that given the high cost of gasoline, if you take even some of these actions, you can significantly decrease your monthly expenses. And the truth is that if we want gasoline prices to fall, we each need to do our part.
If we all do a little, collectively we can accomplish a lot!
Please share this article with as many people as possible. The more people who believe that we can take meaningful action to reduce gasoline consumption, the greater the possibility that prices will fall. Wouldn't it be great if our collective actions reduced gasoline prices back to $1.20 per gallon! Those days are gone forever'if we believe they are gone. How would lower fuel prices improve your economy? How would this improve our national economy.