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Soaring Gas Prices Fueling Drivers' Pain At The Pump

The Automobile Association of America unveils its Top Five Tips to help consumers "save some green by going green."

With gas prices soaring past $4 per gallon, and no foreseeable end in sight, Connecticut drivers are feeling the pain at the pump, and in their pocketbooks, with every fill-up.

As the national average closes in at $3.84 per gallon, and even higher in Connecticut at $4.10 per gallon for regular unleaded and $4.33 for premium, consumers are being forced to become more savvy when it comes to their daily driving habits.

In light of rising gas prices, and in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations across the globe, AAA just released its top five tips to help drivers “save some green by going green.” Tip No. 1 suggests drivers ease up on both the gas and brake pedals to avoid  quick stops and starts, while Tip No. 2 is to simply slow down.

Statistics show that drivers who adhere to the speed limit, or even a few miles per hour less, can reduce their fuel consumption up to 23 percent. Every five mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In Oxford, where the price of gas at the Mobil station on Route 67 climbed to $4.19 per gallon on Friday, resident Richard Burke said he’s been taking steps to save some green at the pump.

“In sync with AAA, my motto has been ‘drive light,’ meaning light foot on both the gas and brake pedals,” said Burke, a member of the town's Board of Finance. “It not only stretches the gas by two or three miles per gallon, but also helps to make the brake pads and tires last longer and go farther.”

Enter AAA’s Tip No. 3: “Keep Your Car in Tip-Top Shape.”

By dusting off the owner’s manual, and locating the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule inside, AAA suggests making minor adjustments and repairs, which can result in reduced gas mileage upwards of 4 percent.

Burke says he doesn’t tail gate, and brakes well in advance to give himself ample time to apply light pressure to the brakes, which, ultimately, saves wear and tear on his brake pads.

By far, however, one of his largest cost-saving lifestyle changes is carpooling.

“Since work is a solid hour away, I carpool,“ he noted. “I have carpooled with a good friend for almost 10 years now. It's not only cut the gas bill in half, but also reduces the overall wear and tear on the car, making it last longer. The economy aspect aside, it's also a great way to discuss life issues and catch up on reading.”

As for AAA’s No. 4, “Choose a Greener Car,” Burke isn‘t convinced about buying one anytime soon.

“As for those green cars, aside from a very few, my analysis questions the investment,” he said. “The break even point for these cars in years and miles to recoup the premium charged is significant. Beyond this, when also considering the potential battery replacement cost, I'll stick with a conventional car until the technologies are more improved.”

Chris DiTuccio, a Brookfield resident who grew up in Oxford, commutes 20 miles each day to his job in Danbury. Having recently bought a brand new pickup truck, boasting eight cylinders of raw power, DiTuccio said the frequent fill-ups are starting to take a toll.

“I spend every other day at the gas station,” DiTuccio said. “I’m paying nearly $100 each fill-up.”

He said he hasn’t been doing much to ease his personal pain at the pump, but with prices escalating by the day, he may be so included to change his mind set.

“I just paid $4.17 per gallon at my local Mobil station, and it seems like just over the last week, prices have been going up every single day," he said. "That made me stop and really think about what’s happening. We have to brace ourselves, because the worse is yet to come. You’ve got to hope the government will do something to help us out.”

President Obama just this week called upon a federal government task force to watch for potential fraud in oil and gas markets.

Jamie Vronesi, who lives in Middlebury and works in information technology for the Torrington (Litchfield County) school system, said he’s all but stopped driving his beloved Ford F350 truck, which has an eight-cylinder engine, because it's just too tough on his wallet.

When he drove his truck, which gets just 10 miles per gallon, Vronesi was spending about $700 a month on gas to get to Torrington, which is about 16 miles from his home.

“The truck was really killing me,” he said. “It’s awesome because it’s so big, but because of that, it's a gas guzzler.”

Vronesi has taken advice of the AAA and started the speed limit. He’s found that if he puts the truck on cruise control at 65 mph, he can get a whopping 12 miles per gallon. “Every little bit helps,” he said with a chuckle.

In the past couple of months, Vronesi has taken to driving his other car, a 1993 Mustang GT, which sees a sizable difference in gas mileage at 18 miles per gallon.

While he’s happy with the savings, it’s still not quite enough.

“I’m thinking about getting a crummy (Volkswagen) Jetta for two or three grand and drive that,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to get rid of his truck but he may have to.

When the weather gets warmer, Vronesi will rely on his backup plan: He’s going to ride his motorcycle to work on sunny days.

“That gets 25 miles to the gallon,” he said.

Another man who plans to change his habits to save money is Carl Willman of Bethel. He moved recently moved there from Danbury so he could be closer to his job in that town. While the move has afforded him the opportunity to work less than two miles from his hose, and consider biking to work when the weather gets warmer, it has taken its toll on his live-in girlfriend, Amanda Jordan.

Jordan works in Brewster, N.Y., a roughly 16-mile drive each way from her house. She has taken steps to save money.

When she moved to Bethel, Jordan had a Dodge Intrepid, a car that she liked, but recently bought a smaller Honda Civic because it gets better gas mileage.

Willman and Jordan say they take other precautions to save money.

“If we’re going out with our friends, we will car pool whenever possible,” William said.

In Naugatuck, Matt Tynan said the outrageous gas prices are making him think about trading in his two “gas guzzlers” for something older with high mileage. Since Tynan became a grandpa, and now makes regular trips out of town to visit the little ones, babysit or take the kids out for a day of fun, the high cost of gas is hitting home and forcing him to combine trips.

That’s where AAA’s final tip, No. 5: “Plan, Plan, Plan,” may come in handy for Tynan and others. According to experts, planning ahead before heading out to the store or another errand is crucial. Determining all the places you need to go on a particular day, and combining those multiple trips into one, can go far toward saving gas, AAA says.

Tynan just paid $4.05 per gallon at his local Stop & Shop, and that was with his discount card.

“I’m not doing anything yet (to address the rising costs), but I am contemplating leasing a high-mileage car,” he said. “I haven’t changed my driving habits up until this point, but this last fill-up reinforced that I’m going to have to.”

Just  last week, Tynan paid a mere $3.75 per gallon; those were "the good old days," he quips.

“I just don’t know what this is all about," he said. "There seems to be no end in sight."

Bother April 26, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Wrong. Every gallon of oil and every barrel of oil we pump out of the ground in Alaska or anywhere else in the United States goes on the world market along with every other barrel of oil. It is no more "American" than any other barrel of oil once it is extracted in the sense that Exxon/Mobil will not sell it to us cheap because we are Americans. We will have to bid on this oil against the Chinese and the Indians and the Europeans. The tiny amount of oil we could extract from Alaska (even by optimistic projections) will be a proverbial drop in the bucket. Further, if this few barrels of Alaskan oil do somehow magically succeed in dropping the price of oil on the commodities market by a nickel or even a penny, OPEC could decide in a minute to decrease production as much as they please to get the price right back to where they want it to be. Oil industry experts agree that it is naive to think that oil from Alaska will lower gasoline prices. Prices are not subject to typical market forces when the supply side is so easily manipulated and the demand is largely inelastic. And what, exactly, was the lesson of 1929 that informs us in a time of rising oil prices? The lesson of the OPEC embargo of the late 1970's was "drive smaller cars or be at the mercy of foreign suppliers". Anybody learn that lesson? Do the lessons of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island or Fukishima have any value for us in a quest for safe nuclear energy?
Matt Dewkett April 26, 2011 at 08:40 PM
If we led the world in "green technologies" we could also rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil. We don't need to spoil some of the last true wild places in this world with reckless drilling, by proven incompetents. We need to innovate and create cars and products of the future that don't depend on fossil fuels. Nuclear is also not a safe alternative. Ultimately there is no safe way to store spent rods other than to sit them in a swimming pool of water to keep them cool. If you think that is foolproof, or an acceptable solution, I can recommend some land in Japan that just recently became unoccupied. Green technologies like wind and solar, have very little adverse effects. When was the last time you saw the devastation of what is going on in Japan, by a solar panel or wind turbine going awry? We were the first to mass produce the combustion gasoline engine, but are bound by the likes of big oil that discourage innovation in anything that is not petroleum based. Why? Laziness. It is much easier to do nothing, i.e. innovation, and collect profits, than it is to spend money of their record profits and actually figure out a better way to fuel cars. The oil companies have hampered car companies innovations for non-fossil fueled cars. Do you see any hydrogen stations around? Any electric charging stations at the local Mobil station? Why? Because oil is easy. It is time to stop taking the easy way out and innovate our way to energy independence.
Karl April 26, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Nuclear is an option, the IFR, ALMR, TWR, and similar designs do not use pools of water to cool the spent fuel. Some designs reprocess the spent fuel and use it to produce more power. In fact, nuclear reactors release fewer radioactives than coal burning plants do. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste Silicon based solar cells are a good choice, but they're not perfect. They often are manufactured using highly polluting processes, and they degrade over time, so they have to be discarded. See http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/greater-oversight-needed-solar-panel-manufacturing-disposal.php for a discussion of this. There are other technologies like fuel cells that, while not totally non-polluting, greatly reduce the amount of pollution, give a higher energy yield than a gas turbine generator (one of the more efficient ways to generate electricity) and can be located near the place where the electricity will be consumed, reducing power line losses. As a bonus, there is "waste heat" available that can be captured and used for heating, industrial process, and other uses.
Bother April 27, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Will building more refineries lower gas prices, as Mr. Duff asserts? Some experts (and oil company internal memorandum) say that the reason there are fewer refineries is so that there will be higher prices that favor the oil companies over the consumers by throttling production. From Factcheck: (http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/print_does_the_us_lack_sufficient_oil_refining.html) In short, the reason for not adding more refineries is straightforward: It's hard, and it's expensive. The reason that we have so few in the first place is more complicated. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a surplus of refining capacity. Then, over the course of two decades, half of the plants shut down. In 2001, Oregon senator Ron Wyden presented to Congress a report arguing that these closings were calculated choices intended to increase oil company profits. Fewer refineries means less product in circulation, which means a lower supply-to-demand ratio and more profit. Wyden's report cites internal memos from the oil industry implying that this reduction was a deliberate attempt to curtail profit losses. The economic pressures of oversupply could have led to plant closings even without a more calculated decision, of course. In 2005, the head of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association testified at a House hearing that the rate of return on investment in refining averaged just five and a half percent from 1993 to 2003. (citations for this information are on the factcheck page)
Bother April 27, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Will drilling for more US oil solve our energy problems? Proven reserves in the United States, according to the United States Department of Energy, are about 20 billion barrels. Our country imports 9 million barrels a day. If every drop of US oil was extracted and used to replace imported oil we would run dry in about 6 years. Then what? Does this seem to be a good solution to anyone other than Sarah Palin? We can start today by drilling everywhere and all be pedestrians before the year 2020 (78% of petroleum in the US is used for transportation). If we devote the effort and resources of our great nation to solving this difficult problem should we not come up with a solution that will actually solve the problem for more than 6 years? We are headed down a dead end if the only solution we can come up with is more of the same. Wihout some serious combination of innovation and conservation we are going to remain in this fix. "Drill, baby, drill" is a slogan for the people who do not care to (or don't know how to) look at the set of universally agreed upon facts and use a calculator. People insisting upon commuting alone 40 miles a day in V8 pickup trucks at 10 mpg should become a thing of the past. Perhaps at $6 per gallon they will be. Or at $8 per gallon. Or $10. (Please, check these facts on your own. Check with any petroleum industry source or US government source. These are the actual numbers and this is what you find when you do the math.)

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