We CAN drive 55

My best-known Energy Party think-tank fellow called yesterday pretty excited that Tom Friedman had mentioned our 55-mph speed limit plank. The column in question appeared on our op-ed page today. Here’s the passage in question:

It baffles me that President Bush would rather go to Saudi Arabia twice in four months and beg the Saudi king for an oil price break than ask the American people to drive 55 mph, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax that might actually help free us from, what he called, our “addiction to oil.”

That was just a portion of the overall message of the column, which is that our nation’s strategic failures — chief among them the failure to adopt a rational energy policy (or any energy policy, really) after 9/11 — have left the nation in a multifaceted bind that is going to be phenomenally difficult, if not impossible, to get out of.

“Call it the triple deficit,” said Mr. Rothkopf. “A fiscal deficit that will soon have us choosing between rationed health care, sufficient education, adequate infrastructure and traditional levels of defense spending, a trade deficit that has us borrowing from our rivals to the point of real vulnerability, and a geopolitical deficit that is a legacy of Iraq, which may result in hesitancy to take strong stands where we must.”

The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.

The metaphor is inadequate, because one, just one, of those shovels would be energy policy, of which 55 mph would be just one essential facet among many. In fact, that one facet could be a bellwether as to whether we have a chance, even a very slim one, to turn things around. To have any hope, we’re going to have to achieve a phenomenal bipartisan consensus to do everything envisioned in the Energy Party Manifesto. And let me say it one more time: That’s just to have an outside chance.

You don’t want to slow down to 55? Guess what, neither do I. But if we’re not willing to do that, something that is such a minor sacrifice as that, then forget the rest. Our nation is doomed to accelerate into decline.

To hear the voice of one American who is flat ready to do what it takes, listen to the audio  of Samuel Tenenbaum’s phone message.

Now, as Jimmy Malone said to Eliot Ness (in the story, anyway): "What are you prepared to do?" And if your answer is that you are prepared to do that which is convenient, that which pleases you — ideologically, or economically, or in whatever way — I ask, "And then what are you prepared to do?"

Join the movement. Join the Energy Party, before it’s too late for America.

22 thoughts on “We CAN drive 55

  1. Lee Muller

    Tom Friedman, who is chauffered around New York City, probably doesn’t own a decent car, and drives only a few miles a year, wants everyone in SC, Wyoming, and Texas to live like him – without the chauffers, taxi cabs and subway trains.
    He is such a shallow thinker.

  2. just saying

    To go a step further, the more aerodynamic cars get better mileage going faster (could be at 60-70mph depending on the design), while the less aerodynamic SUVs get it going slower (maybe even in the 40s).
    If government really wanted to go insane with the regulations to encourage driving saner vehicles they would have two speed limits: Truck or SUV = 45, Aerodynamic Car = 60.

  3. Mike Cakora

    Hmm. Not content with stamping out smoking, Brad’s now backing the anti-destination league. But as it happens, I have a practical example. On Tuesday I drove from Northern VA back home to Columbia, this time at a bit below 55 MPH, the fourth 500-mile trip in my 2008 Ford Fusion with dual chrome exhaust tips. I got 35 MPG, but it took 9.1 hours. On the trip up to NoVA, I averaged 65 MPH, 27 MPG, and 7.8 hours. (My other roundtrip was consistent with this; I will make many more and record all data.)
    Driving 55 MPH saved me 4.23 gallons, or $16.92 at $4.00 per gallon. Sorry, but my time is worth more to me than $13.02 per hour. Next time we’re going for seven hours flat!

  4. just saying

    Mike, which way (going or coming) is up-hill? Also, can you record if you’re using the AC or not on the trips? Would give cleaner data.

  5. Mike Cakora

    The trip from NoVA to SC is downhill, this time with AC, so I added 2 mpg. I arrived at that after fiddling around with the mpg function that the car computes on level road with the AC on and off. I actually used 15.15 gallons over 500.2 miles (per the odometer). I don’t believe that the mpg function measures consumption / flow directly, but infers it from the injector-opening duration. I don’t know how far that is off yet, nor have I calibrated the odometer error.
    I have only 3200 miles on the car, so the data are still shaky. I recorded 134K of data on my 2002 Alero (it had 27K when I bought it 10/2002, so it was getting tired at 161K) and averaged 25.9 MPG over that span, 5195 gallons.

  6. Steve Gordy

    If the value of your time is the most important consideration, there are flights every day from CAE to Washington. A month ago, I went from the parking lot at the airport to Reagan National in 2 hours, 5 minutes. I guess it all depends on what you value.

  7. Lee Muller

    Finally, “just saying” is right about something: dual speed limits of 45 mph for SUVs and 60 mph IS really isane.
    As Mike C points out, the decision of how much fuel per passenger mile to burn, what grade of fuel, etc are PERSONAL economic decisions that only that person can make for themselves.
    Maybe some of the fans of government control just need someone like Mike to help them with the cost calculations, so they can make more rational decisions, like the rest of us are already doing.

  8. just saying

    “Finally, “just saying” is right about something:”
    Hey now! I’ve agreed with you on at least two other posts.
    Any relationship to the Libertarian who ran against Campbell in 80?

  9. Mike Cakora

    Steve –
    Good point, and I was an IFLY guy while it lasted, But I usually go up for two or three weeks at a time and waste fuel hauling stuff back and forth since I have relatives, including my mom, in the area.
    I am so frustrated at the oil situation that I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

  10. Karen McLeod

    The only problem with you point of view, is your “personal choice” may well destroy this country, and the world. Because of competition, I expect that we’ll end up using that oil anyway, but darn, folks, can’t we lead the way in reducing our carbon footprint, or at least not have to be dragged into it. Mike, glad your time is more expensive than that, but is it worth a drought that makes you children/grandchildren scrabble for basics like food and water? Think I’m over-reacting?? Check scientists’ projections.

  11. Mike Cakora

    Karen –
    I’m no more responsible for the drought than are the three candidates zipping around in private jets. Climate does change, and the latest and greatest news is that it will be cooler over the next ten years. The problem with the models behind the climate change hypothesis is that they have no predictive value, so that true believers (more on who they are in a moment) can and do claim that too many tornadoes, too few tornadoes (substitute hurricanes), too much rain or too little are due to anthropogenic global warming. As it happens, some models are being improved with ocean temperature or solar data with the result that we need to stock up on parkas for a decade or so.
    I am quite saddened by all this because I figgered that my home in Forest Acres would soon be beachfront property. I’ve lost a bundle in future land value! Oh woe is me!
    Freeman Dyson is a professor of physics emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; he agrees with the general theory of anthropogenic global warming (GTAGW), specifically with CO2 as the cause. Please read that whole entry (Brad’s blog discourages excessive links from commenters). Yet he is careful to separate the science from the religious. In a recent book review he had this to say:

    All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.
    Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists – most of whom are not scientists – holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

    Lee and I and others choose not to join that religion. We’re not out to despoil nature, I happen to like trees and forests and little furry creatures too. But I’m not about to let that religion or any other guide public policy, mainly because as Bjorn Lomborg, another guy who also agrees with GTAGW, writes, doing all the stuff that the Kyoto folks say we should will delay what may be bad climate by less than a decade, maybe only a few years. That’s what the models say. Did I mention that doing all the stuff that the warmists say we should will ruin the world economy and kill millions too?
    As for my fuel use, my family is actually going to burn less. My son’s 11 MPG 1992 Explorer now sits, waiting for trips to big box stores to haul crap, reducing its 6K miles per year to 200, replaced by my old 26 MPG that will now get 21 MPG for the 6K miles. I have a new 26 MPG car (probably better, but we gotta break ‘er in) with dual chrome exhaust tips and a cheese-slicer to boot. So I figure we’re saving 241 gallons per year overall.
    Could I burn less fuel? Sure, we all could. In fact, some folks would like to return to the Dark Ages, in more ways than one. I prefer modernity, so please pass the natural gas.

  12. p.m.

    I do drive 55. But it’s not about global warming, my carbon footprint or the Energy Party.
    It’s because 55 is the speed that suits me economically, emotionally and physically.
    Here’s hoping no one runs over me while I’m trying to get where I’m going as cheaply as I know how.
    But if y’ all wanna drive faster, feel free. Off this blog, anyway, it’s supposed to be a free country.

  13. Karen McLeod

    Mike, Brad’s tried to pull that science is religions trash on me, and I didn’t buy it from him, either. The best the scientists can give us suggests accelerated global warming–whether it temporarily gets cooler or warmer in any given area is of not relevant. So I’ll go with the best science has given us (not perfect, by any means, but over time, the best bet we’ve got, I think. And by the way, don’t cry over the loss of your ‘beachfront property’. Geographical changes have caused this area to lift a little, which means that the ocean, assuming as much ocean as there once was when Columbia was the beach, will only reach as far as Orangeburg. At any rate, you seem determined to continue to finance our enemies, and to ignore the best info we have. Enjoy.

  14. Doug Ross

    Just like Mike, my time is worth far more than the few dollars driving 55 might save. I already drive a 4 cylinder Saturn because it makes sense. That’s the proper approach to saving energy, not some government mandated foolishness.
    I wish I could come up with one thing Brad likes to do that we could regulate… how about a government ban on wasteful newspaper delivery to homes? I bet my newspaper carrier wastes more gas in a week than I do in a year.
    In fact, when I was a young teen, I would bike about ten miles per day delivering fewer than 20 papers — what ever happened to paperboys anyway? That was far more energy efficient. Drop off a bunch of papers at one house and let a kid deliver them — Why don’t you suggest that, Brad, to your distribution manager if you are TRULY serious about doing something about energy? Rather than just saying “lets get the government to clamp down on everyone”. C’mon — put your money where your mouth is…
    Another wasteful practice is the more recent trend of parents driving their kids to and from school every day. Why don’t you call for a ban on that practice? There are literally thousands of cars bring driven a couple miles every day, idling in the dropoff and pickup lines… just so little Johnny won’t be traumatized by riding on a school bus. Let’s see you write an editorial denouncing that…

  15. Mike Cakora

    Karen –
    I wasn’t trying “to pull that science is religions trash on” on you, only to cite one expert on the distinction. If you ignore the two aspects, you become no better that what folks charge me and Lee of being, mindless ideologues. Lee and I are not, but you certainly don’t want to be included in our karass. (link removed because of Brad’s bot SW)
    The science side has very recently concluded, based on more precise measurements of ocean temperatures, that parts of North America and Europe may cool naturally over the next decade. So keep the faith and keep a parka nearby.
    Crank in too the notion that we may have fewer, but stronger hurricanes. Not my fault, whatever the believers in the new religion may hold.
    What you should consider is that as a matter of science, the theory of anthropogenic global warming (GTAGW) remains premature, ill-formed, because it does not have predictive value. To put this into context, arguably the modern world started on 5/29/1919 when photographs of a solar eclipse confirmed Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (link removed because of Brad’s bot SW). When he proposed his theory in 1905, he included three predictions / proofs by which his theory could be tested. The eclipse 14 years later was the final proof. So his theory had predictive value, and that’s in part what made it a valid theory.
    Gobowarmo true-believers, and that includes you, aren’t troubled by the fact that the IPCC argument is not supported by reliable predictions. But real climate scientists increasingly are, and more are joining the whoa-WTF-what’s-going-on-here bandwagon.
    As succinctly as I can put it, here’s what happened. Everyone was stunned by the hockey stick, the graph that showed the gradually increasing temperatures that suddenly accelerated. The IPCC featured it prominently, and while the body of its report had quibbles and qualifications, the executive summary — a political document written by political folks — did not.
    It turns out that the data and the algorithms for the hockey stick were, er, flawed. You could plug in SC PACT scores and generate a spike. But it took several years to prove this because the researchers responsible for generating the hockey stick would not release their data and methods. The IPCC has had to abandon that striking figure.
    Scientists had assumed that such a remarkable analysis had been peer-reviewed and confirmed for it to appear in the IPCC report. But they were wrong, it was just a couple of guys crunching selective data with a flawed algorithm. But the image lives on.
    Subsequent investigations call into question the accuracy of temperature reading stations. There’s at least one website dedicated to showing the changes to these stations over the years, how development in and around the stations has compromise their data. There’s more. Here’s a good place to start and work backwards.
    And yes, this weekend is charcoal only, no propane whatsoever. I’m also trying to put on a couple of pounds so that I can go on a polar bear hunt later this year.

  16. Mike Cakora

    Brad – your site apparently allows no more than three links per comment. Any more and it gives a spam warning. I know, not your fault and all — probably has to do with driving 55 and smoking and healthcare. Just thought I’d let you know about this unwarranted restriction on personal liberty.

  17. Dale

    From a traffic standpoint, this would have an effect similar to putting tolls on all of our interstates – particularly in rural areas. Since the time advantage of taking the interstate would be lost, more traffic would be moved to much less safe two-lane roads. Also, if this were attempted at the national level again, you would have many western states that simply wouldn’t do it – even if their federal funding was withheld. Federal highway money, while still significant, is increasingly held up in pork-projects – forcing states to come up with new sources of funding for highways. You can see the effect of this in other areas, such as the drinking age. It seems that several states in the last year or so have proposed a lowering of the drinking age, despite the fact that such an act would guarantee a loss in federal highway funding. (The REAL ID act is another example, but does not involve highway funding, at least not yet)

  18. Herb Brasher

    If I walk to the grocery store and (yikes!) to Walmart–can I drive 75 to Charlotte? Please, Brad, I go to sleep at 55. I’m too old for that. It’s a 94 Taurus, it gets decent mileage. Besides, I used to live in Germany. 55 is for trucks (wish they would drive that), not for trying to get somewhere.
    Seriously; this whole country has been built for 60 years on urban sprawl and cheap energy. It’s going to take some doing to turn that around. Or maybe just high gas prices.

  19. bud

    Even the optimists are coming around to the view that geology, not politics or speculation, is driving the increase in oil prices. Here’s an excerpt from a fine article written for the Peak Oil Review:
    For many years, the International Energy Agency has forecast that supplies of crude and other liquid fuels would increase with rising demand so that by 2030 world production would be about 116 million b/d. The IEA is not alone, for the US’s Energy Information Administration also forecasts that supply will rise to meet demand for at least the next 20 years.
    Last winter the IEA, possibly under pressure from some member states, decided to undertake a comprehensive study of the 400 most important oil fields to determine the ability of the oil industry to keep up with rapidly increasing demand. Although the findings will not be released until November, last week the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story saying that the Agency is preparing to issue a “sharp downward revision of its oil supply forecast.”
    Several major oil producers such as China, Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia are not cooperating with the study so the Agency will have to rely on outside estimates to fill in the gaps. The IEA has not completely bought into the notion that geologic constraints on world oil production are imminent; it emphasizes the lack of adequate investment necessary to maintain and grow production in the face of rapidly increasing exploration and development costs.
    The US EIA is also reassessing its optimistic forecasts and is expected to release a new, more pessimistic, appraisal of world oil supplies this summer. The surge in oil prices over the last few years has finally triggered a change in attitude by many old-line energy supply forecasters. Release of more pessimistic studies later this year is likely to lead to better understanding of problems the world will be facing and perhaps more rational policies in coming years.
    -Roger Blanchard is Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Roger is the author of “The Future of Global Oil Production: Facts, Figures, Trends and Projections by Region” published by McFarland & Company (2005).

  20. Lee Muller

    The EIA is RAISING estimates of oil reserves, because as the price increases, it becomes feasible to drill deeper and in more remote regions.

  21. otrpu

    Your time may be worth more the the money you may save by driving the speed limit, but what’s your life worth?

  22. Trent

    The math does not lie.
    55MPH will be very detrimental to the economy. Yes, many vehicles do get up to 27% better gas mileage at 55 MPH as compared to 75 MPH. However you are also driving 28% slower at 55 MPH. A 100 mile trip takes all most 30 minutes longer at 55MPH as compared to 75MPH.
    The added labor costs to business paying for employees being on the road 28% longer is far above the savings in gas. That added expense will ultimately result in increased prices of all goods and services.
    For the sake of discussion, let’s use the following parameters for a 100 mile trip: A car that gets 25 MPG would get 31.75 MPG at 55 MPH (27%) – Gas at $4.00 per gallon – Employee labor cost of $15 per hour.
    Driving at 75MPH will take 80 minutes and cost a total of $36.00 in gas and labor costs
    ( use 4 gallons of gas at a cost of $16.00 and the labor cost would be $20 (1.3 hours x $15/hour))
    Driving at 55MPH will take over 109 minutes and cost a total of $39.87 in gas and labor costs
    ( use 3.15 gallons of gas at a cost of $12.60 and the labor cost would be $27.27 (1.8 hours x $15/hour))
    THAT’S AN 11% INCREASE IN COSTS BY SLOWING DOWN TO 55MPH. The burden labor rate for many service industries is actually $25 to $ 35 and more and therefore the problem is even worse.
    The saving lives argument has also be very exaggerated. The chances of being involved in an accident on the highway increase the longer you are actually exposed to the risk. In other words, if you are on the highway an additional 30 minutes per day, your exposure to potential risk has been increase 30 more minutes. Being on the road longer also greatly increases driver fatigue. Driving while sleepy is as dangerous as driving drunk.
    The claims that the National Highway death toll went down around 1974 due to the 55 MPH limit imposed after the 1973 Oil crisis has often been disputed. It has been suggested that this drop was actually due to new enforcement of seat belt laws and people driving less because of high gas prices.
    As a business owner of a service industry, the interference by the Federal Government to make me inefficient will cost me thousands of dollars. Those who want to drive at 55 are more than welcome to drive 55. Just don’t make everyone else along with the economy slow down with you!

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