05/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Touts Tire Inflation In Symbolic Pushback To Partisan Critics

Unrestrained by the sensitivities of campaign season, Barack Obama returned to an energy policy statement that got him in a bit of hyper-partisan heat while on the trail: calling for people to properly inflate their tires.

"Some of you may remember during the campaign, when gas was really high, I suggested that one small step Americans could take would be to keep their tires inflated, remember that?" Obama told the crowd at Newton, Iowa, in a speech celebrating Earth Day. "And everybody teased me. 'Aw look, that's Obama energy policy.' And my opponents started passing out tire gauges. But I'll tell you what, turns out that saves you an awful lot of gas -- and money in your pocket. It also makes sense for our energy use as a whole. If everybody kept their tires inflated, it would have a big dent; it would produce as much oil savings as we might be pumping in some of these offshore sites by drilling."

For about a week during the summer, Obama was ridiculed by Republican opponents for making the "outlandish" suggestion that people could save a fair amount of money by simply ensuring that their care tires were properly inflated. This was, critics contended, the totality of his energy policy. It was an absurd proposition then and now, in part because Obama's energy plan had many more, broader components; but also because properly inflating one's tires is an obvious way to save money and decrease dependence on oil.

Now president and even less concerned about partisan backlash, Obama hit the same note of small sacrifice for energy gains during his Wednesday speech.

"I don't accept the conventional wisdom that suggests that the American people are unable or unwilling to participate in a national effort to transform the way we use energy," he said. "I don't believe that the only thing folks are capable of doing is just paying their taxes. I disagree, I think the American people are ready to be part of a mission. I believe that."

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