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Jewish World Review May 23, 2001 / 1 Sivan, 5761

Bill Tammeus

Bill Tammeus
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Consumer Reports

Cruising along that bumpy highway -- EVEN former energy company executive George W. Bush says we need to conserve.

"Some think conservation means doing without," the president said the other day. Well, if that's what they think, they've got conservation confused with abstinence, but maybe we shouldn't wander down that path.

Bush says that conservation in our time "harnesses new technology to squeeze as much out of a barrel of oil as we have learned to squeeze out of a computer chip." Perhaps that's what's wrong with this stupid computer I use at my office -- the chip is leaking oil. I'll ask our computer guru to open its hood and have a look.

But it's not just the president who wants us to conserve energy. No, the American Trucking Associations (which, in a nonconservationist approach to our finite supply of the letter "s" pluralizes its name) has asked truckdrivers for advice on how to drive efficiently, to say nothing of safely.

Walter B. McCormick Jr., president and chief executive officer of the associationseseseses (if this outfit can be recklessly extravagant with the letter "s," so can I), says the key is "keeping your car tuned up, planning ahead and driving at a steady pace."

I do those things. For instance, I keep my car tuned to a B-flat, which is also the key in which my tires sometimes run. Planning ahead, of course, is always to be preferred to planning behind. But I find that driving at a steady pace can be problematic.

For instance, when I'm in cruise-control at 65 mph on an interstate highway and I try to keep that nice steady pace as I exit onto a ramp, I inevitably end up behind people who haven't figured out the benefits of a steady pace and have, instead, slowed down considerably.

My insurance company is getting tired of my explanation that the damage to my front bumper and hood was caused by some fool ahead of me who failed to keep his vehicle at a steady pace.

When the American Trucking Associations asked some good truckdrivers how to drive more efficiently, they mentioned such things as planning direct routes, curtailing unnecessary trips, reducing stops and starts, and using cruise control.

Well, those might be lovely ideas for truckdrivers, but over more than 40 years of being a licensed car driver, I have learned some of my own tricks for cutting down on the amount of gasoline I use. And since they're at least as good as the suggestions from this trucking group and its drivers, I'd feel unpatriotic if I didn't pass some of them along to you. So here they are:

  • Stay home. Statistics show you use very little gasoline when your car is parked and the engine isn't running.

  • If you have to go somewhere, bum a ride. Not only does this mean that at least two persons are being hauled around in a single car, but it usually means the other people pay for the gasoline, because they usually don't bother to hit you up for 15 cents as your share of driving you six blocks.

  • If you have to drive, coast most of the time. Every time you hit that accelerator, you use more gasoline. Just start early enough so you can get to your destination on time by coasting until just before your car stops altogether. To avoid people behind you honking, stuck a sign on your trunk that explains: "I'm patriotically coasting. Shut up."

  • Attach sails to your car. People on the lakes and seas aren't dumb. Follow their lead. (Also: Sell ad space on your sails. It'll prove you're quintessentially American.)

Happy efficient trails.

Comment on JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' column by clicking here.

05/09/01: If you're in the write mood, wish the U.S. happy birthday
05/07/01: Killing McVeigh will wound us all
05/01/01: Dubya reinforcing negative GOP stereotypes?


Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star, Copyright 2001. All rights reserved