Global Warming – What Can We Do? (Part I)

| February 20, 2007 | Reply

In my last post, I suggested that we do a bit of brainstorming to come up with practical, everyday ways that we average folks could help knock down greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s my first suggestion: Proper tire inflation.

Okay, stop laughing. For all my life (and I’ll bet, all of yours, too) I have heard how keeping the tires of my car properly inflated can save tire wear and increase the car’s gas mileage. I just want to look at the increased gas mileage part of that (though there is potential carbon savings in needing fewer tires also). I’d suggest that if we all kept our tires properly inflated, we could see measurable CO2 savings almost immediately.

First, some hard numbers. Burning a gallon of non-diesel gasoline puts 19.4 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. The EPA estimates that we waste about 3.5 million gallons of gasoline every day because of underinflated tires.

That works out to 67,900,000 pounds of just CO2 in the atmosphere every day because our tires aren’t properly inflated, or 24,783,500,000 pounds of CO2 every year. Yes, folks, that’s almost 25 billion pounds, with a really big “B”. Doing a quick conversion for the next step, we see that underinflated tires account for 11,241,606.5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

That’s a lot. But how much would it save, really? After all, we do a lot of driving and we burn a lot of gasoline. According to the group Environmental Defense, our CO2 emissions from vehicles in 2004 was 314 million metric tons. So, doing some more quick math (and, please, do check my math. I’m not all that great at it), we can see that if we all kept our tires properly inflated we could have reduced CO2 emissions from our cars by about 3.3 percent.

Now. According to the US Department of Energy, we did manage to reduce our gasoline-related transportation CO2 emissions in 2005 by about 0.4 percent. Assuming that our numbers stay more or less the same over a year or so, we could have seen a reduction of 3.7 percent – a ninefold improvement! In fact, that 3.7 percent reduction would have been the largest reduction in any sector that year. Remember here that transportation-related CO2 emissions account for roughly 1/3 of all our CO2 emissions.

Now we’re talking real reductions here.

So how hard is it to make sure your tires are properly inflated? Well, there are a couple of things you’re going to need to do. First, you’ll need to pick up a tire gauge. You can get one at pretty much any gas station, supermarket with a half-baked automotive section, WalMart or Target for about 5 bucks. Second, you’ll need to know the proper inflation point for your tires. If you don’t know how to find that, ask your mechanic the next time you take your car in for an oil change. He should be able to look right on the tire and tell you. Third, make sure you get gasoline at a station that has a working air pump. Fourth, check the air pressure in your tires with your shiny new tire gauge every other time you get gasoline. If you’re anything like me, that’ll be about twice a month. If you need to put some air in your tires, just ask the attendant to turn on the air pump. It won’t cost you a dime.

That’ll add maybe ten minutes to your gas station trips twice a month and it’ll cost you around five dollars. On the other hand, it will save you that much in gasoline over the course a month or two and it will also help solve the global warming problem. I don’t think that’s a bad deal at all.

Oh, and there’s a bonus here, too. Remember how we don’t like to buy foreign oil? Well, if we all keep our tires inflated, we’ll save 1,277,500,000 gallons of gasoline every year. That’s not a small number, folks. Let’s say, and I’m pulling this number out of the air here because I can’t find a solid number to use, that we get 20 gallons of gas out of a single barrel of oil we buy. I’m sure that’s a low number, but let’s use it and understand that the savings could be even more (UPDATE: HA! I was pretty much right on the money!). That means that we could not buy 63,875,000 barrels of oil from other nations each year.

For reference, we imported 2.446 million gallons off crude oil per day from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iraq, Kuwait, and Russia in 2006. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that we’d be much better off not buying oil from any of those nations. If we saw the savings I’ve calculated by just keeping our tires properly inflated, we could stop buying from those countries for a bit under 1/12 of the year or, roughly, until January 26th.

We could start to see some real results just by shelling out five bucks and spending an additional 20 minutes each month at a gas station. That seems well worth it to me.

Category: What Can We Do?

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