Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

August 5, 2008

“We’re not going to achieve energy independence by inflating our tires”

Category: Political,Tips – Tom Harrison – 8:49 pm

No Senator, we’re not. However inflating our tires will help a great deal more over the next ten years than will, for example, drilling for oil offshore.


  1. He’s sounding a bit like Ed Anger (

    Comment by john — August 6, 2008 @ 7:06 am

  2. “However inflating our tires will help a great deal more over the next ten years than will, for example, drilling for oil offshore.”

    How’s that? By what criteria, as in what does ‘help’ mean to you? And what is the proposal for action on tire inflation, to actually get the underinflated properly inflated? The reason Obama is being ridculed on this, and rightfully so, is that he specifically said that we could save as much oil through inflation as we could potentially get by drilling:

    “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. You could save just as much.”

    1) That’s just flat wrong. 2) No one ever thought having air in your tires was bad. 3) Inflation is not mutually exclusive with drilling.

    Anyway, at least Obama’s come around on drilling now as well.

    I think we use every voluntary means at our disposal to deal with this. That means drill, that means shale, that means drive less (I drive maybe 100 miles a week), that means telecommute more, that means drive a smaller car, that means keep your car in working order, and that means maybe buy an electric vehicle when technology is ready or when regulation finally gets out of the way (electric car store down the street, car restricted to 25mph, thanks Oregon!).

    I want to use the cheapest energy available. Someday that won’t be oil anymore. But there’s no reason that over-regulation should force that time to be right now.

    Comment by Morgan — August 9, 2008 @ 4:32 am

  3. Morgan —

    Thank you for your comment.

    The claim Obama made (and which I reiterated) is perfectly well founded. More on that in a moment. Of course we’re not “saving” oil by drilling for more of it, and we are saving oil by not using it in the first place. They are related: drilling increases supply, conservation reduces demand. If they are the same, both have the desired effect of reducing prices. More on that in a moment.

    Supporting the claim: Here’s a much better analysis of Obama’s statements than I could do, fully supported by facts, research and so on. Their conclusion: the statement is true. Here it is:

    Relation between Supply and Demand: What’s aggravating here is that this discussion about offshore drilling is mainly happening now because candidates need to seem to be doing something about gas prices and heating/cooling prices, which are currently what people think is the most important problem to solve. (Of course supporting offshore drilling is politically expedient, as there are some companies who will benefit).

    So how to reduce price? 1) Increase supply (drilling), and 2) Reduce demand (through conservation, for one).

    I don’t get your point on item 2, but on the point “Inflation is not mutually exclusive with drilling”, I concur.

    My read is that Obama’s point was not that we “solve” the oil crisis by inflating our tires (no more than McCain would say offshore drilling will solve the problem). They are both just means of mitigation. And both relatively small. At least Obama’s proposal is one that could have an impact in a short period of time … with a little leadership.

    This leads me to my last commentary on your reply. You say “I think we should use every voluntary means at our disposal…”. You also suggest that “over-regulation” is undesirable. It’s hard to disagree that “over-regulation” is bad, kind of like “excessive sweating”; perhaps we could agree that some regulation (even if just through monetary incentive) is necessary, just as sweating is necessary.

    I salute your efforts to take voluntary actions. Some people are with you, me, for one. But what made you start thinking this was a problem that we had to address through the means you enumerate? For me, reading, listening, considering, and researching were enough. But it has been lonely and frustrating for me to see that most others don’t seem to think that voluntary efforts such as these are worth taking.

    In my studies of economics in college, I learned that there are several cases where the motivations of the individual don’t turn out to be what’s best for the group, and sometimes even the individual. People don’t take the kinds of voluntary efforts you suggest without a motive, usually an economic one.

    Leadership can be effective in causing large numbers of people to take action … voluntarily. Proper incentives to help businesses and citizens make decisions that are deemed to be good for the country seem like a good idea to me.

    I’m not a big fan of “can’t do this/have to do that” laws. Instead, laws that help encourage healthy and robust growth of our economy, both in the short and long term, are what has worked best. But getting such laws passed requires that we have a mature debate and flow of information, since it’s us citizens that tend to influence which laws are passed. And this is where strong leadership is important.

    The “ridicule” of Obama’s idea is of course in the context of an election. But it doesn’t seem to move the discussion forward. A good leader might be able to see both options, conservation now, drilling later, as parts of the solution.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — August 9, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

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