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Letter: Slow it down!

Ray Duckler’s column, “What’s the harm in slowing down?” (Monitor front page, March 16) was a welcome bit of fresh air (no pun intended). Auto (and truck) speed is an extremely important factor in the problem of global warming and related issues of safety, human health and the cost of living.

I recall the 1973 Arab oil embargo which caused President Richard Nixon to impose a 55 mph national speed limit. Not only did it reduce highway deaths by about 10,000 the first year, it also initiated public awareness of the connection between fuel consumption and auto speed: Most cars and trucks function about 20 percent more efficiently (burn less fuel) at 50-55 mph compared with 70-75 mph. For those who don’t have their almanacs and slide rules handy (I know Duckler has his), that translates into some surprisingly big positives for virtually everyone.

At today’s gas prices that means a savings of roughly $600 per year for those who would otherwise drive at 70-75 mph (assume about half our driving – about 10,000 miles per year – is highway). Nationally, assuming 250 million vehicles (about 90 percent of which are cars), that works out to roughly 30 billion gallons of gasoline; that’s about 2 billion barrels of crude oil per year – or nearly a third of our total national oil consumption!

Ray, I agree completely. Let’s slow it down.



I'm afraid I was a bit careless in my assessment. Obviously fuel savings (due to a 20% increase in efficiency) can't amount to a third of our total oil consumption. But motor vehicles do consume nearly half of the total. If we assume that half the 3 trillion US miles travelled are highway miles, a 20% efficiency increase (by slowing down) would save about 20% of motor vehicle consumption; that's about .7 billion barrels of crude, or about 10% of our total oil consumption. Ray Perkins, Jr.

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