Here we go again: gasoline prices are soaring close to $4.00 a gallon, and several of the countries that export oil to the U.S. are in such political turmoil, we can't be sure our supplies will continue. When, oh when, will we say, "Enough, Already!" and get serious about reducing our dependence on petroleum?
The problem isn't just "foreign" oil. Using any kind of fossil fuel to meet our transportation needs is a losing proposition. Drilling for oil wrecks the planet, or have we already forgotten the Gulf Oil disaster? And burning oil generates climate-changing carbon dioxide and nasty particles that create asthma-inducing smog.
If you're in the market for a new car, take a look at electric options like the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf. Gas-electric hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion merit consideration, too. Aim to buy the most fuel-efficient vehicle in your price range; this site maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy, will help you compare your choices.
But most of us can't just go out and buy a new set of wheels (unless they're on a bicycle). These ten tips offer the fastest, easiest ways you can save gas and money, no matter what kind of car you drive.
1. Drive smart - Avoid quick starts and stops, use cruise control on the highway, and don't idle.
2. Drive the speed limit - Remember – every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas.
3. Drive less - This should be a no-brainer. Walk, bicycle, use a scooter or moped, combine trips, and telecommute to work.
4. Drive a more fuel-efficient car - Consider one of the new hybrids; at the very least, choose from among the EPA's "Fuel Economy Leaders" in the class vehicle you're considering.
5. Keep your engine tuned up - Improve gas mileage by an average of 4.1 percent by maintaining your vehicle in top condition.
6. Carpool - According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 32 million gallons of gasoline would be saved each day if every car carried just one more passenger on its daily commute.
7. Use mass transit and "Ride Share" programs - Why pay for gasoline at all?
8. Keep tires properly inflated - Improve gas mileage by around 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Replace worn tires with the same make and model as the originals.
9. Buy the cheapest gas you can find - Buy gas in the morning, from wholesale shopper's clubs, and using gas-company rebate cards. Track neighborhood prices on the Internet.
10. Support higher fuel-efficiency standards and the development of alternative fuels - Ultimately, our best hope for beating the gas crisis is to increase fuel efficiency while we transition to renewable and non-petroleum based fuels. Endorse efforts to boost average fuel efficiency to at least 40 mpg. Support programs that promote research and development of alternatives to transportation systems based on oil.
If you do want to get rid of an existing vehicle, here's how you can recycle it.