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Driving... buying a new car
Toyta Prius

Fast & Easy Info

  • Even though the U.S. only has about 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, we consume 25 percent of the amount of petroleum that's produced worldwide. We use two-thirds of that for transportation.
  • What President Bush calls our "addiction to oil" is expensive. Petroleum imports cost the U.S. about $2 billion a week. At the pump, we're paying an average $2.67 a gallon for gasoline, up from $2.27 a year ago, according to AAA.
  • Burning gasoline creates a whole host of environmental problems, from air pollution and smog to global warming and climate change.
  • Drilling and transporting oil destroys wilderness and wildlife areas, while refining petroleum generates a wide variety of toxic substances and can create hazardous waste sites.
  • Driving a fuel efficient car helps protect air, water and wildlife; strengthen national security; and improve the quality of our lives overall.

Dollars & Sense Options

Before you get a new car, ask yourself a series of questions:

Do you need to move one or two people, or a larger group?

Will you use your vehicle primarily for commuting to work, for doing errands around town, or for traveling long distances?

What is the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can consider, given your driving needs and budget?

Many vehicle models come in a range of engine sizes and trim lines, resulting in different fuel economy values. When purchasing a vehicle, check with the manufacturer on projected fuel economy for that specific model. Similar ratings are available for used cars.

Remember that options like four-wheel drive and third-row seats increase the weight your vehicle carries, adding to its fuel consumption. If you don't need the extras, skip them. You'll be happy you did when you go to fill up your tank.

No Excuse for an SUV

Ford Escape

SUVs waste more gas than almost any other vehicle on the road today. According to the Washington Post, U.S. citizens use 24 percent more gas today than we did in 1990 thanks to the 84 million SUVs Americans are driving now. Some SUVs average only 13 or 14 mpg in the city compared to the 27.5 mpg a standard 4-door car averages, giving new meaning to the words "gas guzzler."

If you must have an SUV, consider the Ford Escape Hybrid, which averages 36 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

For Your Shopping List:

Before you buy a new or used car, check with the U.S. EPA. You can compare fuel economy leaders in the class size you're interested in and check on the most fuel efficient vehicles available.

The federal government has developed a Fuel Cost Calculator to help you anticipate annual fuel costs, as well as compare gas and money savings between vehicles. It makes clear how much gas and money you can save simply by driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Visit www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/savemoney.shtml to download the calculator and look for ways to save money and gas.

Consider a hybrid. Current hybrid vehicles simply combine a smaller gasoline engine with a battery-powered electric motor. In doing so, they double the mileage of conventional cars. Hybrids burn little fuel as they slow down, and can come to a complete stop when waiting in traffic. You recharge their batteries every time you hit the brakes. You don't have to plug them into an electrical socket; they use the same gasoline other cars do, though less of it. Ford, Honda, Toyota . This EPA website compares the various hybrid cars, trucks and SUVs currently on the market in terms of fuel-efficiency and environmental impact.

If you already drive a vehicle that runs on diesel, you can convert it to BIOdiesel by combining diesel fuel with vegetable oil - or even use vegetable oil alone.

Switchgrass - Photo from http://www.sbs.utexas.edu/bio406d/images/pics/poa/panicum_virgatum.htm


Another alternative fuel that's available, though more widely in the Midwest than anywhere else in the U.S. , is E85. E85 is a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Engines must be specially equipped to use E85, and gas stations that sell this fuel are hard to come by in many parts of the country. But if the fuel catches on, it could help reduce our dependence on petroleum. This is especially true if the ethanol is "cellulosic" rather than corn-based. That means it's made from switchgrass and other plants which cost less energy than corn to grow and generate more energy than corn-based ethanol when burned. Check here to learn more.

In My House

We have two vehicles: a 1997 Honda Odyssey mini-van, and a 2002 Toyota Prius. We bought the mini-van when the kids were small and our car pool needs were great. Now, the car sits parked in the driveway most of the time. It only averages about 22 mpg, so we need a good reason to drive it, especially since our Prius routinely gets 45 or 50 mpg. We all have bicycles, which we use occasionally; but more importantly, we live near our community's subway system. We can take the Metro almost anywhere we want to go: work, school, entertainment. We use the Prius for shopping and traveling longer distances. But the Metro reduces the amount of driving we do overall. When the Odyssey dies, we'll be able to get along just fine without it.

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Message for Moms

Check out Mothers for Clean and Safe Vehicles, a "gas roots" group of moms from diverse backgrounds and interests. But, says the group on their website www.dontbefueled.org, "one thing we have in common is definite opinions about vehicles and transportation. Our goal is to help people make educated and rational decisions by giving them access to lots of information about vehicles." At their site, you can sign a petition to major auto makers and U.S. legislators asking that fuel-efficiency and safety be made a top priority for every class vehicle, especially SUVs, pick-up trucks and minivans.

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Driving links...

Top Ten Ways to Beat the High Price of Gas
Six Ds that Will Save You Gas
Buying a New Car?
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