What if we all woke up tomorrow and decided we would no longer drive a vehicle that gets less than 30 miles per gallon. Every one of us. There are about 250,000,000 vehicles in this country classified as cars or light trucks. The average MPG is 20 when the auto and truck numbers are combined. American drivers average about 15,000 miles each year. These numbers might be a couple of years old, but we are just pretending anyway.

That would amount to a one third increase in fuel efficiency overnight. On average Americans could save thirty three percent on their fuel bill and we would require only two thirds as much oil. Forgive me if my math is not correct, but you can see where I‘m heading.

How long do you think it would take auto makers to start making SUVs, high performance hot rods, and big honkin’ four door trucks that get 30MPG if the existing ones were sitting in a showroom gathering dust? I’m betting not long.

I know none of this is possible; you only have to sit in traffic for ten minutes at a construction site where two lanes narrow to one to realize how selfish we have become when insulated by the metal that surrounds us. But let’s also consider what could happen if we all decided that since we were saving so much by being smart about the vehicles we buy, maybe we could take this a step further and improve our driving habits.

Imagine the savings if every driver in the US woke up tomorrow and began to drive in a courteous and fuel efficient manner. We left ten minutes earlier rather than speed through traffic, tailgate, and accelerate quickly on our morning commute. We averaged 50 mph on trips like our grandparents did, rather than 70. We stopped driving around a parking lot waiting for a closer spot so we don’t have to walk so far to get to Gold’s Gym for our workout. We tuned our cars and inflated our tires for optimum performance. We walked to the mailbox.

I don’t even know where to start with the fuel savings associated with these actions, but it is safe to assume we could save an assload of fuel, to use a technical term.

I wonder how quickly the oil companies would change their customer relations policy if we demanded respect from their industry, rather being treated like a meth addict who can’t live without a fix. Cell phone companies and insurance behemoths are crawling all over each other to get our business and offer deals; why wouldn’t oil companies?

I realize we are talking fantasy here, but it is worth considering. As we elect politicians who promise to end our dependency on foreign oil, as we wring our hands and wonder what the environment will look like in 100 years, and as we work to invent elaborate and costly ways to solve our energy problems, I wonder what would happen if we were willing to just change a few habits.

Too bad it is too much trouble.

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Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.