Time to hit brakes on gas consumption

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico

With the holidays upon us and with the outrageous cost of gasoline expected to get even more pocket-heavy, here are some tips to help save gas.

As Americans, our response to possible resource shortages has been typical with these latest gasoline hikes, which are at unbelievable $3.15 a gallon. We’ve continued on with business as usual.

It’s starting to really hit where it hurts, though, and if you’re like me, you’re rethinking those late-night trips to the store to satisfy snack-food cravings and you’re coming up with crazy plans of action, like letting your teenager take the car to school.

Also, you’re not as laid back about Saturday errands and shopping. You have a game plan, and those weekday trips to out-of-the-way places like Wal-Mart are highly discouraged.

For starters, piggy back rides are economical and practical for those just-around-the corner trips. But seriously, folks, here’s one good tip I found on the Internet that surprised me and also applies to me.

In a book, “365 Ways to Save Gas,” it lists aggressive driving as a gas guzzler. You know how, when you’re in a hurry, which is like almost all the time, and you think you’re saving time and gas, by weaving in and out of traffic, passing every slow-moving object? Well, nine times out of 10, you don’t save time and, according to this book, you’re actually wasting more precious fuel by constantly shifting from one extreme of speed to another.

Now there’s a good reason to slow down, besides the obvious ones of preventing accidents and even saving lives.

I’ve found that handing over my car keys to my teenager can be a gas saver. This is not an oxymoron. On mornings in which I have no morning errands to run, Laura drops me off at the Eastern New Mexico University campus and takes the car to school. This works because Laura is a senior and only has a half day of classes. Instead of taking her all the way to the high school, driving to ENMU and then going back to pick her up at lunch, she drops me off (the campus is on our way to the high school) and then picks me up at lunchtime. After lunch, I take her to work and go back to campus.

Assuming she doesn’t take any quick cruises with her friends, we save gas.

Here are more gas-saving tips. Some are my own; others I found while surfing:

• As the Baldo cartoon character would say, use your “patomobile” or “footmobile” whenever possible.

• At home, light a match instead of a gas burner to light candles.

• Make sure gas burners are off when not in use (turn them off immediately after warming up your tortillas).

• Car-pool, preferably with people who have the same music taste as you. (You don’t want too good of a music selection, though. You’ll just want to keep cruising.)

• Leave early so you drive slower, and go out during slow-traffic times whenever possible.

• Take shorter hot showers.

• Check your tire pressure regularly.

• Downsize your car and your load. Don’t leave heavy items in your car, which add significant weight to your load, any longer than you must. Your car burns more gas. (If you work out of your car, unload on your days off).

• Avoid getting stuck behind slow cars where you have to slow down to their pace and then speed up to pass.

• Don’t drive too fast, or too slow (I was surprised by this one). It takes 20 to 30 percent more gas to drive at 70 mph than 50 mph.

• Brake easy!

• Stay home and watch a movie instead of going to rent videos or going to the theater. Save even more money and gas by eating at home.

• Avoid excessive idling. If you’re stopping longer than a minute, shut down. I do this for long trains.

• Here’s a good one for those really cold mornings. Avoid prolonged warming up of your engine. Experts say 30 to 45 seconds is enough time (unless you’re defrosting).

• Eliminate jack-rabbit starts. Accelerate slowly when starting from a dead stop. Don’t push the pedal down more than one-fourth of the total foot travel. This allows the carburetor to function at peak efficiency.

• Another good one, which I didn’t know: Buy gasoline during the coolest time of day — early morning or late evening, when gasoline is most dense (gas pumps measure volume, not density of fuel concentration).