Thursday, April 3, 2008

How to save gas, be patriotic, and save money!

By Ed Smallwood

For years I have been sending out one version or another of this essay to my friends. Each time there is a major increase in gas prices, I redo it and recalculate the costs. The first time I went to all of this trouble, gas was approaching $2.35 a gallon. Now, as we have all heard, we can expect gas to hit $4 a gallon this summer. This essay is all about how you can save real money, and why you should. I sent this out to about 50 people yesterday, hoping some of them will forward it to a few people. I would love it if people would send links to this site so their friends can find out how to save themselves hundreds of dollars per year, and help our country at the same time.

It’s been way too long since my last post on this subject, especially since I have more information to pass on to you. Keep in mind that since I last sent this email out, the EPA has changed the way they calculate the fuel economy on vehicles. I’ve updated all information to reflect this change, and included current model vehicles only.

In this essay, I’m going to give you tips that will help you save money, help you to improve the environment, save money, act patriotic, save money, help improve the economy, and save money. In addition, I may appeal to your greed by helping you to save money. The best thing about all of this is that I don’t have anything to sell you. My opinion is that it’s difficult to save money when you’re buying something, so instead of asking you to shell out money, I’m going to ask you to stop.

Here’s the deal: Gasoline prices have been increasing steadily for the last couple of years. I’m sure that came as a complete shock to you. It doesn’t seem that long ago that gas cost just a bit more than a buck a gallon, and now we’re hearing that it’s approaching or at $4.00 per gallon. That’s a price point many of us didn’t expect to see until much further in the future.
Now, with a small car using a ten-gallon gas tank, you’re going to be paying $40 to fill up that tank. Larger vehicles may take $150 or even more, and that’s at current prices!

Here are the best tips for keeping that gas you just paid for in your gas tank (where it belongs):
  1. Keep your car in good shape. This means getting an oil and filter change (both oil and air filters), a tune up, and keeping your tires properly inflated. This can improve your mileage by up to 19% according to the EPA’s fuel economy website ( Fixing a significant engine problem like a faulty oxygen sensor can save up to 40%.
  2. Don’t go out and buy your lunch, pack it instead, just like dad used to do. This could save you quite a bit. Let’s go over it.
Let’s say you work 5 miles from the fast food place where you like to eat every day, and you own a Toyota Prius Hybrid. According to the EPA, you’re getting around 48MPG for that trip. The total cost for gas each day is a whopping $0.33. Let’s say that your favorite value meal costs $5. Each day, you’re paying $5.33 for lunch (both food and fuel). That’s $26.67 per week, about $106.67 per month, or $1333.33 per year. Now, if you buy “Budget Gourmet” TV dinners for $1 at the supermarket each time you go, and get a soda from the machine for around $0.75 each day, you’re paying $8.75 per week, about $35 per month, or $437.50 yearly. The weekly savings is $17.92, monthly is $71.67, and yearly is $895.83. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I could figure out what to do with an additional $895 per year.

Keep in mind, those are the figures for the most fuel efficient gasoline/electric hybrid car you can buy today. You’re more likely to have something like a Honda Accord which gets around 22MPG. Your yearly savings by eating in jump up to $994.32 with this car.

Wow, dad had a great idea, didn’t he? We get to figure out what to do with our own money, instead of giving it to the heads of ExxonMobil and McDonalds. What a thought!

Now, when you have extra money to spend, most people will either spend it, or invest it. Either way, you’re helping the economy.

Okay, keeping the car in good shape and eating at my desk are good for my wallet. Are there other good reasons to do these things?

Glad you asked! Let’s cover the Patriotic part of saving gasoline! According to all available information (Newspapers, TV, Radio, CIA) out of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks, 15 were Saudi. Osama bin Laden himself is Saudi, and most of his beef with the United States is over our military bases in Saudi Arabia. What does that have to do with saving gas? Well, according to the CIA Factbook, petroleum (what Gasoline is made from) accounts for 90% of Saudi Arabia’s export earnings. This money doesn’t just sit in one place; it trickles down throughout the economy. Now, we’ve heard time and again that the Saudi Government doesn’t support terrorism, but that isn’t quite true. Forbes magazine reports that in 2000 the Saudi royal family sent out an edict forcing all banks in Saudi Arabia open an account called Account 98. Anyone in the country could deposit money in these accounts, and funds from these accounts were disbursed to the families of terrorist suicide bombers killing Israelis. Members of the Royal Family asked the populace to deposit funds into these accounts on several occasions. Although this money didn’t go directly to the bombers themselves, knowing that their families would be taken care of after they were gone probably made the decision to blow themselves up and kill innocent people easier. So the money they are getting from petroleum is going into the hands of terrorists’ families. Since most of the hijackers were Saudi, and the planners of the attacks were Saudi (including Osama), does it take much of a stretch of imagination to believe that at least some of the funds used were from Saudis? How about the funds being used to plan the attacks in London, Spain, and against our troops in Iraq?

Although Account 98 was closed due to international pressure, other private accounts have been opened for the same purpose since then. In short, Saudi Arabia is the source for much of Al Qaeda's funding.

If you’re thinking of buying gasoline from guaranteed non-middle-eastern sources, I hate to tell you this, but according to the Energy Information Administration gasoline is mixed from all refineries in the pipelines that are used to transship it, so you can’t determine the source of the oil that made the gasoline in your gas tank. Also, as you buy more gasoline, you are pushing up the cost of oil everywhere, increasing Saudi profits.

So, how about the environment? Virtually every car emits gases that contribute to global warming. If your car is using petroleum-based fuels it is also emitting gases that cause smog. I know that there are some that would claim that we aren’t to blame for global warming, or that it is a short term problem, but quite frankly, is this something that you are willing to bet the farm on? The government and the United Nations both claim that this is a problem. Do you want to disagree with them on this? Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels means that we will reduce smog, reduce global warming, reduce the cost of gas and heating oil, and still have some left over for later use. This sounds like a win-win-win-win to me!

So folks, I’m just asking you to keep your car in good shape, and to look at how you eat lunch each day. And for that, you get to save up a bunch of money, be patriotic, and help rescue the environment. Is that so bad?

Sources of Gasoline:
EIA Primer on Gasoline Sources and Markets:
Cost of running a car for lunch:
Multiply distance to lunch place by 2, then multiply the result by the mileage of the vehicle, then multiply the result by the current cost of gasoline. Add the cost of lunch to the result (I assumed $5.) Multiply the result by 7 for the weekly cost, and so on for monthly and yearly costs (I subtracted out 2 weeks for vacation from the yearly result.)
Country of origin for September 11 Hijackers:
Saudi Arabia’s Economy:
Account 98:
Forbes Magazine, 10/18/04 Cover Article, “Terror Inc.”, by Robert Lenzner and Nathan Vardi:

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