Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pump pain is no gas...

Is anyone else tired of blowing major bucks every time they fuel up the car? And if folks from Europe are reading this, YES, I KNOW! You pay ten times more than we do. But I'm an American - we kvetch constantly.
What's that you say? Gas prices are finally going down? Bah! It's still too high. To put things into perspective, this time last year, the average price of unleaded in Atlanta was about $2.664. Today, it's $3.608. Woof-dee.
Either way, I'm tired of spending a chunk of my hard-earned change each week filling up my poor, banged-up Honda. Sadly, this is Atlanta - and I have few other options. Our mass transportation system stinks. I spent my first few months in the city taking the bus and train, only to realize it took two to three times longer to get to work that way than it did by car - traffic and all. And, unfortunately, I can't start up a work carpool because nobody in my office lives near me.
So after extensive research today (er, about 20 minutes trolling the Internet), I've come up with a few tips for conserving gas. Here's hoping they work.

1. Don't be idle. Savings can be made by switching off the engine at long lights, while sitting in traffic or when waiting to pick someone up.
2. Slow down, you move too fast. Simon & Garfunkel apparently had it right. The Department of Energy calculates that for every five miles a motorist drives above 60 mph, a fuel efficiency loss occurs. Most cars get the most efficient mileage figures between 45 and 55 miles per hour. Any jump to 65 mph significantly reduces fuel efficiency, while a further jump to 75 mph over long periods can result in an expensive return to the pumps. Cruise control also helps avoid wasteful engine revving.
3. Maintainence is key. Keeping your engine properly tuned can result in significant efficiency savings. This means you should regularly change the vehicle's oil, check and replace air filters to prevent engine damage and improve mileage and keep tires properly inflated. It will help out.
4. Lighten the load. If you're like me, you've probably got some clothes, a sleeping bag, beach chairs, tool kit - all sorts of odds-and-ends - taking up space in the trunk of the car. Clear it out! The EPA estimates that for every 100 pounds of weight your car carries, fuel efficiency dips by 2 percent.
5. Plan your road trips wisely. Are you driving from one end of the city to the other simply to visit your favorite market, hair salon or fitness center? Find ways to condense the trips. Seek out spots that are closer together or combine them all into one outing - rather than separate trips.
6. Do your homework. There are lots of Web sites out there with insight on where to buy the cheapest gas. Check out this site for one such example.
7. Keep it cool on the highway. When driving at lower speeds, roll down those windows. However, while crusing the highway, roll them up and crank the A/C. According to experts, opening your windows while driving at high rates of speed will actually increase drag and turbulence.
8. Join the club. Some gas stations, department stores and grocery stores offer lower gas prices or other incentives if you join their membership club. Or you could apply for a credit card that coughs up gas savings with purchases, similar to frequent flyer mile rewards. However, be careful of credit card interest rates which may negate said savings. Also verify that the stations you use don't charge higher prices to credit card customers.
9. Wait until the traffic dies down. Rather than sitting through that rush hour traffic, hang out for a bit. Head over to the closest fitness center. Or stop by a nearby coffee shop and stick your nose in a good book until traffic dies down. This can help lighten your wallet and your mood!
10. Make it a hybrid. Time to change vehicles? Most automakers are offering up a range of fuel-saving models these days. So do your research and find out which hybrids, SUVs or small cars provide the most bang for your buck. Don't forget, there are often tax breaks for people utilzing gas-saving cars.

And just to show you what an extra-special awesome person I am, here are a few sucralose-sweetened drink recipes designed to help cool off red-faced drivers whose tempers are revved up by the high gas prices.

Enjoy!

Coconut Horchata

Endless Summer Lemonade

Iced Almond Mocha

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