Director of Transportation and Buildings Policy, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
With gas prices rising toward $4, it’s time to think again about how to reduce our addiction. We have short memories – it’s less than three years since the last gas price crisis. Isn’t it time we learned our lesson?
In the short run, the quickest way to cut gas costs is to maintain your car well and “drive smart.” Maintenance: change your oil and air filter and tune your car at the recommended intervals, and keep your tires at the proper pressure. Drive smart: speeding, accelerating fast, and braking hard raise gas use greatly. Try driving more gently and see how much money you save. Other easy ways to save gas are to remove unneeded roof and rear racks, use the “recycle inside air” setting when running air conditioning, and idle only when necessary.
For those who have other options, it’s also possible to get around differently than with one person in a car: car or van pools, take public transit, use a bicycle, walk. To check out possi-ble options go to MassRides at www.commute.com.
If you’re in the market for a new or used car, remember that miles per gallon (MPG) vary widely, even for autos in the same size class. All new cars have stickers on them showing the MPG, and you can see all the ratings for new and used cars by going to www.fueleconomy.com.
For the longer run, the Commonwealth has several policies to cut gas use, through our Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. The Plan addresses the three main methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation: making vehicles more fuel efficient, providing convenient alternatives to driving, and cutting the carbon contained in auto fuel (the carbon dioxide that is released when fossil fuels are burned is the main cause of climate change).
The greatest change will come from the federal government’s revised MPG standards, which will improve fuel efficiency of new cars by almost 30 percent by 2016. In addition, the state’s Plan calls for providing incentives to consumers to buy more efficient autos.
Second, the Commonwealth will promote “smart growth” – new residential and commercial development that makes it possible to get around with less driving. This includes develop-ment that is closer to cities and to mass transit, and “mixed use” development, where homes, stores, and jobs are located closer to each other.
Third, through a pilot program, the state will encourage auto insurance companies to give drivers the option of paying per mile for their coverage, rather than through an annual pre-mium. This allows people to cut their insurance bills by driving less, while also cutting gas costs and global warming emissions.
Finally, there is an existing federal law, and a regional effort being developed by 11 Northeast states, to require that a portion of vehicle fuel have lower carbon content than does gasoline. Possibilities include electricity (even if power plants burn fossil fuels to generate power, electric cars are far more efficient than gasoline-powered ones), cellulosic ethanol (alcohol fuel made from non-food crop sources), and natural gas. So as the summer driving season gets closer, it’s not too soon to think about how to get around and have fun without blowing your budget at the gas pump. Good luck!