Jim Gereghty at the Campaign Spot points out Obama’s flimsy New Math on tire pressure. I agree with Jim in general, but I think there’s an easier way to make the point. First, Obama’s connecting this with offshore oil drilling is ridiculous. That’s like a doctor telling a man with a cold, if you lay down part of the day, you’d cough less and you won’t need so much cough syrup. Okay, but why don’t I do both, would that be better?
In any event, Obama is claiming that properly inflating tires would have a significant impact on gas prices. Let’s take Jim’s assumptions and see:
- The average commuter commutes 33 miles per day;
- The average car gets 24 mpg (unlikely, but okay);
- Improper tire pressure decreases efficiency by 2.5 mpg (average of 2-3 mpg);
- And 1 out of 3 commuters has improper tire pressure.
Take three random commuters: two travel 33 miles each at 24 mpg (1.375 gallons per day) and the other at 21.5 mpg (1.53 gallons). The evil, unAmerican commuter is wasting .16 gallons per day.
To put into perspective, this means that uninflated tires increase domestic demand by .16 gallons for every 4.125 gallons. (All three commuters with properly inflated tires would use (1.375 * 3 = ) 4.125 gallons.) Put another way, this is an effect of less than 4% (.16 / 4.125).
Assuming you believe in the law of supply and demand, a 4% decrease in demand should correspond to at most a 4% decrease in price. This ignores effects like stockpiling and the cost of the federal beauracracy needed to ensure compliance. If the average price of gas is now roughly $4.00 per gallon, a 4% decrease would make it $3.84, saving $.16 per gallon.
To sum up, forcing every motorist to properly inflate their tires would save, at most, $.16 per gallon.
In contrast, the federal tax on gasoline is $.184 per gallon. Wasn’t there a candidate who said that eliminating this tax was a “typical Washington gimmick” that wouldn’t amount to any real savings?