Now that the days are so short, I have to admit to spending more time in front of the TV than I should.
One program that I have forced myself to watch is “IRT Deadliest Roads.” I hate this program, but like a horror movie, it is something that I occasionally have to check out due to morbid curiosity.
The premise of the program is that people who used to drive on frozen lakes and oceans in Canada and Alaska on “Ice Road Truckers” now are driving in the summer in India and Nepal.
The drivers get to navigate delivery trucks on the most precarious roads in the world with drops that make me cringe even while viewing this from my living room here in Maine.
The drivers really make this show. They are an order of magnitude crazier than anyone we can imagine from Massachusetts, New York or even Maryland!
I think the issue is that they have not been driving for very long.
India, China and other developing countries are just beginning to discover the joy of automobile driving. Since we have had more than 100 years of experience with cars and trucks, driving is almost an innate skill, well, except for people from Massachusetts.
Between China and India, 3 billion people want to own cars. They will have a far greater impact on global warming than anything we are producing.
Perhaps more significant is the fact that they will be demanding gasoline for their cars. They will be competing with us for fuel. I wonder who will win — us with our service industry-based economy or them with most of the manufacturing clout in the world.
We tend to fixate on home energy issues. We can and should insulate our homes, use alternative fuels when possible to get off oil, but the big gorilla standing behind us with the rock over our heads is transportation.
It is certainly wise to purchase a vehicle that gets better mileage. Many new cars get more than 30 mpg, but this was, or at least should have been, the goal 30 or 40 years ago. And purchasing a new Prius or Chevy Volt is not in everyone’s budget right now.
There are some simple steps that we can consider, though.
The simplest ones are to keep your car in tune and properly maintained. A broken car gets you nowhere.
After that, the most important thing to do is to check your tire pressure. This seems trite, but it is of critical importance. Driving a car with low air pressure in its tires is like bouncing a basketball without enough air. It works, sort of.
I learned this with my Prius. When the air pressure was increased, the gas mileage would go up by as much as 10 mpg. Normal cars might not get that kind of bump, but it still is worthwhile and is a simple fix that anyone can do.
Another scheme that works incredibly well and costs almost nothing is to car pool. If two people can travel together, you just doubled your gas mileage. Three or four people increase the mileage even more.
You might find it socially engaging or challenging, but every so often we need to be challenged and those savings are immediate.
A passenger car is an amazing thing. We tend to ignore its true utility, only really acknowledging it when gas prices go crazy.
Until the wood pellet car is perfected, it is the best we can do.
Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329.