Presumptive Democratic Nominee Barack Obama commented recently that Americans could realize significant gas savings by doing simple things to increase their fuel economy -- like keeping their tires properly inflated.
Obama's suggestion -- which seemed to be more like a spontaneous remark than some sort of orchestrated proposal -- has been mocked repeatedly by McCain and his supporters. Capitalizing on what they see as naïveté and ignorance, the McCain campaign has responded with even louder demands that offshore oil reserves be opened for drilling.
They've also begun issuing tire pressure gauges to the media and event attendees labeled "Obama's Energy Plan." Very funny.
But who will get the last laugh?
Let's say that in some parallel universe this really was Obama's energy plan. How does it stack up to offshore oil drilling?
A recent national survey by the tire industry states that 85 percent of U.S. drivers do not check their tire pressure properly. This means that some 173 million people are driving around with under-inflated tires, which wastes fuel and causes tires to wear out faster.
According to the EPA website fueleconomy.gov, gas mileage can be improved by around 3.3 percent just by keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure. Considering that the average vehicle consumes 600 gallons of gas per year, this equates to an average gas savings of about 19.8 gallons per vehicle per year -- or about $80 at the pump.
If all 173 million vehicles in America that are currently driving around on under-inflated tires had their tires inflated properly, the total gas savings would be nearly 88 million barrels of oil per year.
Now for the comparison.
If all bans on offshore drilling were to be lifted today, 10 years from now we'd have oil production reach a rate of 220,000 barrels per day -- or about 81 million barrels per year.
Keeping our tires inflated seems to be a pretty good idea after all.
Who's laughing now?