Smell the Roses by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Updated: note from Dale, see below

by Dale Allen Pfeiffer
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Dale’s blog post

Suicidal Tendencies

6/27/08 ( Why does it seem that every time the price of gas goes up, motorists respond by driving faster? Is it some misguided belief that if they reach their destination quicker, they will use less gas? Or are rising prices and desperation invoking some lemming-like instinct to use up our energy resources as quickly as possible, accelerating global climate instability as we make a mad rush toward oblivion. Slouching toward Bethlehem could not be farther from the truth, we are racing toward it.

Back in the 1970s, when US oil production peaked and started to decline, sparking the oil shocks of that decade, the government responded through gas rationing, lowering the speed limit to 55, and a host of other measures designed to spur energy conservation. Then Reagan came along and denial and conspicuous consumption were elevated to patriotic duties.

Now, as oil prices aim for the stratosphere, there is no talk of rationing, or even slowing down. But wait, someone is trying to start a grassroots movement to spur motorists to drive more sensibly and save. And the person who is spearheading this effort is none other than Jay Hanson, the man who established the website that first woke up most people to the idea of peak oil in the late 1990s and shortly after the turn of the century.

Green Slow Moving Machine

Jay Hanson now maintains a blog urging people to make a difference simply by slowing down. makes a very good argument for the savings that accrue from simply driving a little slower. I urge everyone to visit this site and consider taking an active roll on the slow movement. The site draws a lot of its information from government studies that deserve to be loudly trumpeted.


All vehicles achieve their optimum gas mileage at speeds between 50 and 60 miles per gallon. And as gasoline prices climb above $4/gallon, we are talking about a substantial saving here. The rule of thumb is that for each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph, you are paying an additional 30 cents per gallon. That is cumulative. In other words, if you are driving 75 mph, then you are paying an additional 90 cents per gallon.

Driving faster than 60 mph reduces fuel economy due to a number of factors. The energy necessary to overcome rolling resistance of the tires and other frictional effects within the mechanics of the car increases directly with velocity. The power required to drive the pumps in the vehicle increases with the square of velocity, and the energy required to overcome wind resistance increases as the cube of velocity. So as your speed increases, the amount of energy necessary to drive the vehicle increases many times over. A more detailed explanation can be found at the How Stuff Works website (What speed should I drive to get maximum fuel efficiency?)

Some folks seem to think that new vehicles are designed to drive faster. The EPA regularly calculates data on fuel economy. The following table is based upon their data. It shows that for all vehicles, maximum fuel economy is achieved at speeds around 55 mph. Data from real road driving tends to be lower than EPA data, so your fuel economy is likely to be less than that listed in the studies.


40 mph

50 mph

60 mph
























table from
data from the EPA:

So it really does pay to slow down and drive between 55 and 60 mph. Just think of it as a fun way to mess with people’s heads and save money. While all those irate leadfoots are zooming past you, keep in mind the money they are throwing away with their need for speed (not to mention the extra pollution they are adding to the atmosphere, and their race towards energy impoverishment).

Other Money Saving Tips

AC vs Rolling Down Windows
There have been a lot of arguments over which is more energy efficient, using AC or rolling down the windows. Consumer Report’s auto-test department finds that AC use will reduce a car’s fuel efficiency by up to 10%, at speeds below 45 mph. However, at speeds over 45 mph, wind drag becomes a major factor, decreasing fuel economy by 10% and more. So in the city, roll down the windows, and on the expressway turn on the AC. (Source: http://www.bankra

Reduce Vehicle Weight
Every 100 pounds of load reduces your fuel economy by up to 2%. Lighten up.

Avoid Idling
Idling reduces fuel economy to zero. The larger the engine, the more gas that is wasted. Modern vehicles do not require warming up. So when you are caught in a traffic jam or waiting for a long train to pass, stop your engine.
(Source: &

Avoid Rapid Acceleration and Excessive Braking
Try to drive as smoothly as possible. Resist the urge to stomp on the gas when the light turns green. Conversely, do not ride the brake. These bad habits can lower your fuel economy by up to 33% on the freeway, and 5% around town.

Don’t Drive
Avoid making unnecessary trips. Walk and bicycle whenever possible.

There are other ways to improve your fuel economy. Generally speaking, drive sensibly, be a smooth driver, avoid rush hour and combine trips. Using cruise control on the freeway tends to save on gas. Also, when you use overdrive gear your car’s engine speed is reduced, at a savings.

If you were CEO of Exxon/Mobile

If you were the CEO of Exxon/Mobile and you knew that within the decade oil production was going to head into an irreversible decline while the price of production would inexorably climb, what would you do today? Well, you might drive up the price of oil now to maximize your profits before the decline. Then you could milk as much money out of the market as possible and be in an optimum position once the decline does begin.

Now I’m not saying oil prices are being manipulated for the reason stated above. However, given the coming peak and decline of oil production, the current situation fits the best scenario for maximizing company profits. You can bet oil executives and investors are not complaining about the current price of oil.

What we are seeing, whether intentional or not, is an economy being primed for collapse. The Fed is flooding the market with dollars. Most of the traditional ways to invest this excess money are currently unappealing. So investors are pouring all of this funny money into oil and other goods (such as grains). As a result, prices are skyrocketing and the wealth of the world is being quickly transferred from the majority to the elite minority.

Every time you purchase a gallon of gasoline or a loaf of bread, you hasten this transfer of wealth, giving your hard-earned money to those who are already glutted with their own fortunes. Likewise, every time income taxes are lowered or adjusted and sales taxes are raised, it aids this transfer of wealth.

Gas prices are currently $4/gallon and nearly $5/gallon for diesel. By the end of summer, gasoline is expected to cost $6/gallon — possible even $7. And if we go to war with Iran, we could very quickly see $10/gallon or higher.

We are approaching a currently unknown limit that will bring our country to a halt. When people can no longer afford to drive to work and truckers have to park their rigs and walk away from them, our civilization will be crushed overnight.

And those who are currently reaping the profits do not seem to care. When the smoke clears, they will have transferred the country’s wealth — if not the world’s — to their own personal accounts. And they will then be able to pick up what is left for pennies on the dollar.

Something has to be done about oil speculation. However, if new regulations simply act to roll back the price of oil, they will do us a disservice in the long run. The price of gasoline should probably be $4/gallon right now, but half of that should go toward developing a decent mass transit system, before declining oil production really does hit us. We need to prepare. We need mass transit. We need to redevelop our railways, and we need to restructure our communities so that work, school and food are only a walk away. We need to redesign our food distribution system so that most of the food we eat is produced within 100 miles of our home.

Instead, the money necessary to prepare for the future is being given to profiteers.

The Smell the Roses Revolt

To paraphrase the late Utah Phillips, in an oil-based civilization, walking and riding bicycles are revolutionary acts.

There is no profit to be made from conservation. There is no profit to be had from slowing down and smelling the roses. That is why our leaders want us to go on consuming as much as possible. Hurry to work, hurry to the store, and use those credit cards to keep everything running smoothly. Be sure to buy the latest cellphoneipodblackberry and use it as much as possible. And when it becomes obsolete next year, dispose of it and buy the latest model.

Remember, consumption is your patriotic duty. Going into debt is your patriotic duty. Drive as fast as possible with your flag decals on the bumper. When reality starts to feel a little uncomfortable, grab a beer, turn on the TV and do a little home shopping.

But if you should desire a saner, healthier and more fulfilling world, then slow down. Or better yet, park the car and go for a walk. And please take the time to smell the roses.



It is with some embarrassment that I must state Fulton “Jay” Hanson of and Jay Hanson of are two different people. There was some confusion about identities, and I was too busy to clear this up for myself, so I simply accepted the word of others.

In any case, the advice on driving slower is no less valid. I still urge everyone to take an interest in slowing down.

Dale Allen Pfeiffer


photos by me

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Legendary Folk Musician, Activist Utah Phillips, 1935-2008 + Direct Action (vid)

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