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Break Your Own Oil Dependence
The scenes from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are horrifying and heartbreaking, and they have made many Americans determined to do what they can to stop America’s dependence on oil. Americans use about one-fourth of all the oil used in the world. In 2008, we used more than 7 billion barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About 72 percent of that went to make gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel.
But oil is used to make many other products, from asphalt for roads and roofs to heart valves and ballet tights. About 5 percent of the oil we use goes to make plastic. You can cut your personal oil dependence by cutting back on gas and plastic.
You probably aren’t in a position to give up your car entirely, or to get a hybrid car if you don’t already have one. But there are several things you can do to use less gas in the car you already have.
First, drive less. Before you get in the car, ask yourself if this errand is really necessary. If so, could you walk, ride your bike or take public transportation? If you must drive, don’t run individual errands. Run all your errands at once, and map out the most efficient route to get you where you want to go.
Keep your car clean and tuned. A car that is badly in need of a tuneup can use as much as 4 percent more gas than a well-tuned car, according to the federal government’s fuel economy website. Keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure can save you an additional 3.3 percent on your mileage, and using the grade of motor oil that is recommended for your car saves 1 percent to 2 percent more. Plus, you will help to extend the life of your engine and your tires.
Don’t drive like a maniac. The fuel economy website estimates that you can improve your mileage by one-third if you don’t drive too fast or speed up and then slam on the brakes, A car that gets 30 miles per gallon at 60 gets about 25 mpg at 65.
Try to stay out of traffic. If you are idling in traffic, you are not getting any miles per gallon. The bigger your engine, the more gas you waste when you aren’t going anywhere. Plus, you probably will lower your stress level considerably if you can avoid traffic.
Use cruise control and overdrive gears, if you have them. Cruise control helps you maintain a constant speed and avoid unnecessary acceleration, and overdrive gears keep your car engine from working as hard. Both help you use less gas.
As we learned in the movie “The Graduate,” the world is becoming more and more plastic. And that plastic is made from petroleum.
First, don’t use plastic water bottles. Turn on the tap, and put water in a glass. If you need to carry water with you, buy a reusable water bottle made of stainless steel, aluminum or some other non-plastic material. Buy small reusable bottles for your children or grandchildren, and get them involved in the effort to save the planet.
Take reusable bags to the grocery store. Some supermarkets give you a few cents off your order if you use reusable bags, but even if yours does not, using reusable bags is still the right thing to do. Plastic bags not only use oil, they fill up landfills. They also end up being eaten by animals, birds and fish, often with disastrous results.
These kinds of small steps can make a big difference in reducing your personal oil dependence. You also can help the environment and save yourself some money at the same time.