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This is my effort to share my thoughts with readers about concerns facing our country today.  I believe there is a good chance my grandchildren may be the first generation in the history of this great country not to have a better standard of living than their parents. If so, our generation is to blame. The clock is running out for damage control. .

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« Amtrak May be History | Main | The Oil Business »
Thursday
Jul102008

Wasted Gasoline

If America is the world's energy pig, how so? Let's just think about the ways we use 25% of the world's oil demand with only 4% of the population.  First, some legitimate ways. Our GDP is 25% of the world's GDP. We are a big country. It's takes more fuel to get around in a big country than a small country. Second, we have, or at least had, a vibrant economy. Lot's of goods and services moving around a big country. We don't grow oranges in Illinois. Takes a lot of fuel to do move goods around to where the demand exists. We don't have rail transportation to move people. We do move goods efficiently around our big country by rail. To move people we use Amtrak. The $30 billion sink hole for tax dollars. It has been too cheap to fly and more and more people have taken advantage of that. Buses do move some people.

We know we drive SUV's with one passenger way too much. The gasoline price is taking care of that. Hummers are done. You can't sell an SUV already. This  will all change. Trucks for people who want to be cowboys. Big hat no cattle. They are going away. Less unnecessary miles being driven make for less crowded roads. This makes traffic flow better. More motorcycles and mopeds being sold. More bicycles on the streets already. Less premium and mid grade sold means more gasoline from the barrel since both take more refinery time.

Good old price elasticity is reducing demand and driving habits.

When you are sitting at a traffic light idling away $4 gasoline with nothing coming in any direction from the other street do you find it harder to obey the law? How many gallons go up in exhaust at intersections all over America for no good reason? Doesn't it make sense for someone to be looking at ways to save energy by re-engineering our intersections?

How about company cars. Ever had one? Those of you who do spend much less time thinking about the cost of gasoline for that car than you do about your personal car. Companies who furnish cars need to encourage prudent consumption. You need to monitor mileage and reward those who don't waste fuel and work with those who do. In Arizona company cars idle a lot when the temperature is over 100 degrees. In North Dakota the same is true when it's below zero.

Don't we need to think about how we waste fuel in this country and work toward reducing that? I'm not talking about the Federal Government mandating 55 MPH speeds. I'm suggesting a study to see how to debottleneck traffic. In the oil business, refiners have gotten more supply from tired old refineries over the past 30 years by debottlenecking projects. Increasing flow throughout the refinery by re-engineering where slow-downs occur. 

Traffic flow in this country needs work. We burn millions of gallons we don't have by sitting in traffic or only moving at a snail's pace. Too many red lights, many put there by begging merchants who want to increase business. Or residents who don't want to wait to get out of a subdivision. Many could be eliminated. Some could be flashing red at certain hours. Too much fuel wasted to facilitate road construction.

We are doing lots of work to move in a better direction on the supply side. At least we are debating ways to do it. Debating is the National Pastime, not baseball. We need to start the debates on the demand side. Improving traffic flow is a big issue that needs to be put on the table.

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