Ken's Project Blog

January 2, 2011

I Can’t Drive 55

Filed under: Politics — Ken @ 10:07 am


On January 2nd, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon signs legislation limiting highway speeds to 55 miles per hour to conserve gas.

I found an interesting New York Times article from May 1, 2005, where the writer is all but begging for the return of the national speed limit of 55 miles per hour, which was loosened in 1987 to allow states to increase highway speeds to 65 miles per hour. From the article:

After steadily rising each year, gasoline demand suddenly stopped growing in 1974 and remained nearly flat for the next decade, keeping oil consumption in check.

The above assertion is provably false, just look at the graphic (right) from this very New York Times article. Fuel consumption marched up for the next several years, spiking in 1978, then retreating by 1980, where it started a mild increase year after year. The level of the 1978 peak was not to be reached again until the mid-1990’s.

The article also asserts that the effect of the 55 MPH national speed limit was to reduce gasoline and diesel fuel consumption by about 2.2%, which is surprisingly similar to the estimated amount of fuel that could be saved if everyone simply ensured their tires were inflated to the proper pressure. Could this article be the source of then-Senator Barak Obama’s oft-ridiculed suggestion that Americans check their tire pressure to reduce energy consumption – a notion debunked by at least one automotive journalist, Csaba Csere, Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver magazine.

Then-Senator Obama subsequently insisted his imagined theory of every tire in America being massively under-inflated and repeated his inflated savings possible at a subsequent town hall meeting

Three guesses which candidate vowed to “put science in it rightful place” (at 6:40), committed to science and math education improvements, and mocked the failure of his opponents to do any research on this?

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