Tuesday, May 30, 2006

US Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) wants a National Speed Limit of 55 mph to reduce gas consumption

US Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is not an engineer and I doubt she has any real knowledge of energy or how energy is converted. It is people like her in congress that debate energy bills, pass legislation on energy and we still are no closer to being energy independent than in 1973.

My car has one of those nifty instant and average gas consumption displays. I can tell you that my best gas mileage is at 67 mph. It is not 55 mph. My gas mileage improves dramatically from 22 mpg at under 45 mph to over 33 mpg at 67 mph.

Cars are designed to run on the highway. Engineers optimize the design of an engine, tire, transmission, coolant and more so that it runs efficiently. The real question is what should be the design criteria, city or high way driving?

Lower speed limits may just make driving to that destination in the time you have impossible or not worth it, thereby eliminating the trip all together. Was gas saved, yes, but not because of better gas mileage by driving slower? You could reduce gas consumption even more by lowering the speed limit to 10 mph.

If we want to be energy independent, then we need to look at where the oil is consumed. 45% is used for making gas. This means 55% is consumed elsewhere. Is this bunker oil for ships? Is this oil used in heating homes? Is it used in power plants? If it is oil used in heating homes, convert these homes to electricity and use windmills to produce the electricity. If the oil is used to power plants to produce electricity, replace these power plants with windmills. In both cases you decrease oil consumption far more than by driving slower.

Denmark produces 80% of their electricity using windmills. Windmills are now very cost competitive. Unlike nuclear, there is no waste disposal problem. They are reliable, clean, efficient and can produce electricity at 3.8 cents per Kwh. That is about as cheap as you can get.

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