August 4, 2008

McCain, Obama Air Views on Tire Pressure

By Justin Hyde, Detroit Free Press

Aug. 4--WASHINGTON -- Tired of the usual hot air from presidential candidates? John McCain and Barack Obama have a new issue: the air in your tires.

Over the past few days, McCain's campaign has needled Obama for saying that keeping tires inflated would save more oil than expanding offshore drilling. Republicans quickly attempted to link Obama's comments with Jimmy Carter exhortations to save on heating bills by wearing sweaters.

"We could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups. You could actually save just as much," Obama told a campaign rally Thursday in Springfield, Mo.

The Republican National Committee offered today to send reporters tire gauges as a stunt to mark Obama's birthday, and McCain's campaign sold an "Obama Energy Plan" tire gauge for a $25 donation.

"We need to offshore drill for oil and natural gas. We need to drill here and we need to drill now. McCain said today at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, adding "We're not going to achieve energy independence by inflating our tires."

But the numbers give Obama a strong argument.

Tire pressure checks have been a key fuel-saving tip that automakers, tire companies and government experts have recommended for years. On its fuel economy Web site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that underinflated tires can shave up to 3% from a vehicle's fuel economy.

Over a couple hundred million vehicles, those shavings add up. The Department of Energy estimated in 2005 that U.S. motorists wasted 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline a year from driving on underinflated tires -- roughly 61 million barrels of oil.

By comparison, the U.S. Department of Interior says there are 17.9 billion barrels of oil available off-shore in areas under the federal drilling ban. Due to a shortage of equipment and legal hurdles, experts estimate that if the ban was lifted, it would take at least five years to produce an additional drop of oil from those areas.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said last year that new off-shore drilling could add about 200,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. output -- not enough to have "a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."

Contact JUSTIN HYDE at 202-906-8204 or [email protected]


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