Tips to ease gas pains

July 15, 2008 11:00 pm

By Kelley Atherton

President Bush on Monday lifted a moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Bush hopes this move will prod Congress to lift its ban and the U.S. can start relying on domestic rather than foreign oil.

Don't get too excited though. Hear that? It's crickets chirping.

The symbolic lifting of a presidential ban on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) will do little to ease the pain of filling up at the gas tank.

Congress issued its moratorium in 1982 and it still holds firm. The first President Bush issued his ban in 1990, which President Clinton renewed.

According to the current President Bush, drilling in the OCS could open up a decade's worth of oil without damaging coral reefs or causing spills.

Democrats, such as U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., disagree, saying this is a political move in the midst of a presidential campaign to push his own agenda.

"If the president wants to lower gas prices, he should stop hosting press conferences and start taking action," Emanuel said. "Releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and forcing oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres they already control would be a good place to start."

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the world's largest supply of emergency crude oil (700-plus million barrels) that is stored in huge underground salt caverns along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said that if Clinton had opened up drilling in the OCS 10 years ago, the country wouldn't be in this gas crisis.

Bush also suggested that exploration into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska could yield two decades' worth of oil.

These solutions are not quick fixes and won't ease consumers' money woes any time soon. Even if Congress quickly pulled a vote to release its 25-year-old ban, gas prices wouldn't suddenly drop. It would take months to years to get the oil flowing. In the meantime, there are better options to help Americans during these troubling times.

Here are a few tips to save money at the pump from the Huffington Post, an online news site. This is especially important for Californians. The average price of gas is $4.56 a gallon. This is the highest price for the lower 48. Alaska beats all other states at $4.63 a gallon.

Keeping your car tuned up is a good gas saver. A dirty air filter can make the car less fuel-efficient. There is also "energy conserving" oil to improve gas mileage. A windshield shade will also help keep the car cool and cut down on air conditioning.

When at the gas station, don't overfill your car, stop at the first click. This can prevent gas from sloshing out of your tank. Also make sure the cap is on tight to prevent evaporation.

My mother always scolded me for driving around on an empty tank, but turns out I was on to something: waiting until the tank is near empty results in a lighter load and therefore you'll use less gas.

When looking for a gas station, name brands don't mean anything, it all comes from the same place. Some gas stations offer membership benefits. After a long stretch on the highway don't stop at the first place you see, keep going to get cheaper gas.

Then, of course, there is always the option of riding the bus or your bike. A smaller, fuel-efficient rental car could also save money on long trips.

Dirt and gravel roads can be harsh on gas mileage. Find alternative routes: curves and lane jumping, heavy traffic and lots of stopping and going can gobble up gas. If you're not using your bike or luggage rack at the moment, lose it—extra weight will only drag you down.

In addition, excessive speeding will use up more gas. Ease up on the brakes and accelerator.

You can save yourself some money, with or without offshore drilling.