Friday, August 08, 2008

Tire Inflation and Tune-Ups to save America

McCain stated recently, referring to Obama's suggestion that off-shore drilling for oil could be offset with proper tire inflation and tune-ups:
"I totally agree that tire inflation will help the higher gas prices"

Some are calling McCain's statement a flip-flop, but this look at the issue a little more closely.

Here is Obama's words, “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.”

So let's put some facts to this statement. One oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico can produce 200,000 barrels of oil per day. That equates to nearly 75 million barrels a year from just one platform.

At 20 million barrels per day, the US uses nearly 7.5 billion barrels of oil a year. That means that for each new off-shore drilling platform, 1% of US domestic oil use would be satisfied. If we built 70 such platforms, we could be energy independent. Obama calls that a "gimmick"?? How about 20? Would 10 new platforms, or 2 million new barrels a day, be a gimmick?

So how much oil does Obama assume from drilling to be offset by tire inflation and tune-ups? Drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf today is roughly 1.25 million barrels a day, or just over 6% of US domestic oil use.

But here is the flaw in Obama's numbers. His claim only is valid if every car in America is out of tune, using the wrong oil, in need of a new air filter, and on the road with 4 under-inflated tires. That simply is not correct. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics do not back up these assumptions. If only 25% of cars have under-inflated, and less than half the cars out there need tune-ups, oil changes or air filters, the savings from 100% US car efficiency doesn't come close to the 1.25 million barrels currently being produced from the OCS. More importantly, it doesn't begin to solve the supply side problems we face with growing world demand, or argue against new production on the OCS as McCain is now proposing.

Remember, 70 new offshore platforms and we could halt all foreign importing of oil.

But taking Obama's words at face value, what would be Obama's plan to enforce tire inflation and tune-ups? Would we spend billions on law enforcement to pull people over for tire inflation checks? Would they write tickets for out-of-tune vehicles? Would he build a national network of free tune-up centers, at taxpayer expense, to require regular tune-ups, or require quarterly tune-ups, paid for by the car owner, to guarantee that cars are always working at optimum efficiency?

The point is that as solutions go, this one is nonsense. Cars will always have under-inflated or over-inflated tires. There will always be cars in need of tune-ups. If you want more stupid solutions, mandate that no vehicles out there can get less than 50 MPH. Make SUVs illegal. Require people to live no further than 5 miles from their job. Reduce road congestion that wastes significant amounts of fuel. Or maybe ban vacations. In other words, say goodbye to America.

A plan is something that addresses demand and supply. Democrats are focused solely on demand, and only on demand in the US. But in a world where energy use is growing due to foreign growth in demand, we can either do something on the supply side, or we can let world demand drive the price up and let it destroy our economy and productivity. At a minimum, it is way too important an issue to let it be used for politicians' personal political gains.

As for the claim that McCain flip-flopped, what he stated was simply that proper tire inflation and tune-ups would save gasoline. He did not endorse Obama's claim of the amount of savings, and he has not endorsed it as a viable strategy to solve our energy problem.

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