Highways Hamper MPGIn response to John McElroy's “Driver's Ed for MPG” ( see WAW — Sept. '06, p.17), I'd like to make some additions. He's absolutely right: Stop-and-go driving kills fuel economy.
But do you know what kills it even worse? Dead-stop fuel economy. I don't care what vehicle you're driving. If you're at a stand still, you're getting zero miles per gallon. If this country wants to get serious about reducing its dependency on foreign oil, then it's time we (and our nation's leaders) take a hard look at the road infrastructure throughout the country.
Look at the millions of cars stopped on this nation's roads everyday, and think about the billions of gallons of fuel wasted. The U.S. highway system was designed more than 60 years ago and cannot efficiently support 21st century traffic. Significant improvements can be made to reduce gridlock in all of the nation's large cities, and effective traffic-management planning and road design can improve the efficiency of traffic flow throughout growing suburbs.
Don't Light My Fire I enjoyed reading “Fueling Optimism” (see WAW — Sept. '06, pp.32) about America slowly coming of age with diesel-powered vehicles. However, I would like to mention another benefit of diesel not usually mentioned in similar articles: flammability. Diesel fuel is much safer to transport, store and use when compared with gasoline.
In my previous career in public safety, I was often called upon to destroy hazardous materials, with mass burning usually serving as the prescribed method. We used diesel fuel as the accelerant on these burns (something you could never do with gasoline) and the fire spread evenly through the diesel-soaked materials in a non-explosive manner.
With this in mind, maybe we will begin to see fewer post-collision vehicle fires as more diesel-powered non-commercial vehicles populate our highways.
Double-Nickel DetrimentJerry Flint's “Energy Policy Needed” ( see WAW — Sept. '06, p.48) did an excellent job of bringing back the memories of the 1973-1974 energy crisis, a true dark period in U.S. history. But contrary to his assertion that our “actions” in 1974 worked, all the 55-mph (88 km/h) speed limit did was to spread the misery equally to motorists for 21 years.
It was a public policy boondoggle that cost motorists billions of dollars in undeserved speeding tickets and insurance surcharges. It was a widely disregarded law that created resentment and conflict between motorists and police. As an added bonus, during the years of heaviest 55 mph enforcement (1977-1981), the highway death rate climbed.
Only when resources were redirected to drunken-driving efforts in the early 1980s did fatality rates resume their historic drop. It isn't too much of a stretch to say the law was one of the worst pieces of legislation ever written.
The 55-mph speed limit's main objective of energy conservation also went unmet over the entire 21 years of its existence. Gasoline demand did not fall in any year due to the slower mandated speed. The National Academy of Sciences estimated increasing the speed limit to 65 mph (105 km/h) would only increase fuel consumption by 0.18%, barely a sneeze in a rainstorm.
In truth, gasoline demand fell between 1974 and 1987 because Americans were replacing their gas-guzzlers with more fuel-efficient models, largely enabled by the corporate average fuel economy requirements being phased in. Almost immediately after the annual improvements were no longer required, gas demand began rising again with population.
This country does need a new energy policy consisting of conservation, alternative fuel sources and additional oil drilling. We need to add to our refining capacity and to make those alternative sources more accessible and marketable. We also need to ensure that slower driving speeds are never made part of an energy policy.
I am hopeful the American public will remember what a disaster the 55-mph speed limit actually was for motorists everywhere.
Henry B. Stowe
System Of GreedThe cover of the August issue touting the headline, “Milking the System — Social safety nets enable absenteeism” ( see WAW — Aug. '06, pp.52) has an apparent typographical error. The label on the milk carton reads “Green's Dairy Farm” but should read “Greed's Dairy Farm.”
I dislike the idea of being on the road with drivers who are physically sick but are pushing to go to work because of the threat by their employers of losing their jobs or losing vacation time. I also am not pleased knowing that some individuals I come in contact with are infectious. They are not home in bed but are at their jobs because of similar threats.
If there is a problem with excessive absenteeism, perhaps the “societal safety nets” are not the true cause. Maybe it is something deeper — such as lack of job satisfaction, lack of respect in the workplace, lack of opportunity to learn and advance, or simply poor management fostered by greed.
All this corporate angst over employee absenteeism is self-inflicted and easily can be avoided. I worked for a company that took an employee's vacation time, added a number of sick days, and called it combined personal time.
This way, if you wanted to take a day off, it didn't matter if you were sick. It simply left less vacation time. The healthy workers weren't penalized for working more than those that were sick. More than once when the sun was shining I called in to work to say, “I feel too good to come in.”
Fuel Price Parlor TricksFor the last year I've listened to my suppliers cry and whine as they increase my prices because of “fuel costs.” Now that fuel prices are coming down, I haven't heard from a single one telling me my prices are going to decrease on my next order because of “decreasing fuel costs.” Why not?
Is this the same “stair step philosophy” that Big Oil uses on us on a regular basis, when prices increase to all-time highs and stay there until we get used to paying $3.00 a gallon? Then they make huge announcements that pricing is going down…to $2.60 a gallon — a level still way above what we were paying before the big increase. What a rip!
Daytona Beach, FL
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