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Drive 55 mph and try other ways to save gasoline

Is it possible to save fuel and continue to breathe?

That is essentially the question that popped in mind when an environmental think tank representative offered this tidbit for those of us searching for ways to save fuel: Keep the speedometer at 55 and you will visit the gasoline pump less frequently.

I double-checked the area code to confirm that this guy does not live in Las Vegas, where it would be far safer to simply stay home than drive along Interstate 15 at 55 mph. I tend to test concepts before throwing suggestions out there, so I considered giving this a shot to see how much of a gasoline-burning difference exists between driving 70 mph versus 55 mph.

But I prefer that my life not end at the hands of road rage.

Mike Salisbury recently co-authored a report for the nonprofit Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, and presented it to both Assembly and state Senate members in Carson City. The gist of the findings, which included the gasoline-conservation tips, was that Nevada needs to reduce its dependency on foreign oil and improve its transportation system to increase fuel efficiency.

“They didn’t have much reaction,” Salisbury said of our state lawmakers.

That might be because this state has no money to vastly improve its transit system and, truthfully, the Regional Transportation Commission has made significant strides in removing the stigma attached to riding a bus with its new vehicles and express routes. And as far as oil imports? Well, I’m not sure our state legislators have a whole lot of control over that.

Some of us are questioning whether gas stations are gouging customers and wondering why prices at businesses located within a mile of each other can differ so radically.

As a quick aside, Michael Geeser with AAA said there have been no substantiated reports of gouging. Geeser said motorists with suspicions can file a report with the Attorney General’s office, but cautioned that they should first learn what the station paid for their wholesale gasoline.

“We only see the retail price. We don’t get to see what they paid,” Geeser said.

Regardless, we have to figure out strategies to improve gasoline mileage, because in a city that leads the country in unemployment and foreclosures, these skyrocketing prices could be the last straw for some families.

So I pried some more reasonable suggestions from Salisbury.

Motorists should “drive with a light foot,” the report says. Again, I’ve lived in Las Vegas for 13 years and realize that this doesn’t happen often, but perhaps it is time to change our ways. Hey, you folks who punch the pedal to prevent me from merging into your lane, listen up. Salisbury said accelerating slowly and keeping a steady speed can improve gasoline mileage by up to 33 percent.

If you are not going skiing or biking anytime soon, take the rack off the vehicle. They interfere with the aerodynamics of the car and can reduce gasoline mileage by nearly 20 percent.

Activating cruise control on flat roads can result in 7 percent savings, according to Salisbury’s report.

You know that bag of dog food you left in your trunk for now? Or the cases of water or set of golf clubs? That could be reducing the vehicle’s gasoline mileage by 2 percent. Not a lot, mind you, but it adds up.

And this is a no-brainer that will stick in the craw of drivers who have contacted me in the past few days about poorly timed traffic signals: Idling is not a good thing when it comes to conserving gasoline.

Keeping your vehicle properly tuned is also key. For example, if you have an oxygen sensor that is out of whack, that might be burning 40 percent more gasoline than normal. Tire pressure is also important and can reduce gasoline mileage by as much as 4 percent — or about 14 cents a gallon — if vehicle owners don’t keep an eye on it.

The U.S. Department of Energy has other recommendations, such as carpooling, working from home, shifting work hours to miss rush hour and combining errands.

In the last month, the average price of gasoline in the Las Vegas Valley rose to $3.46 a gallon, a 12 percent increase from January, according to Geeser. It is expected to continue to rise, perhaps to as much as $4 a gallon by the end of May.

Plan ahead and, before you fill up, check out websites such as vegasgasprices.com or gasbuddy.com to find the lowest prices in your neighborhood. No point in driving 15 miles to land that great bargain, right?

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal
.com. Please include your phone number.

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