Jamie Hampton and her fiance, Adrian Ortiz,
like to get away by driving their Volkswagen van to a campground and
leaving it parked while they bike nearby nature trails. They're in
shape to do it because they bike almost daily to work.
The soaring price of gasoline is leading many
Americans to adopt new strategies to economize on fuel, especially
during the summer holiday driving season that's about to begin.
The nationwide average price for gasoline has
surged to a record $3.07 per gallon, according to the latest
Lundberg Survey, surpassing the old mark of $3.03 set last August.
Some experts fear that tight domestic refining capacity and higher
international demand could boost the average to an unheard-of $3.50
Kateri Callahan, president of the nonprofit
Alliance to Save Energy in Washington, D.C., said that when gas
prices rise, there are basically three strategies for consumers --
drive smarter, keep the car in good working order and drive less.
"The trend in prices in up, not down," Callahan
said. "That doesn't mean people shouldn't drive at all, but it
wouldn't hurt to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst."
The Roberts' idea of a relaxing vacation is a
trip to Ocean City, Md., a beach community about a three-hour drive
from their of Columbia, Pa., home.
"It's very beautiful down there, very peaceful,
and people are friendly," said Angie Roberts, who works as a shift
manager at a McDonald's restaurant. And, she added, "We don't have
that far to go to get there."
Still, she said, with gas prices rising, "We
always check the computer and monitor where gas is up and where it's
low," to hold down costs.
Jamie Hampton, a senior account executive at a
public relations firm, said she moved to San Diego for the warm
weather and initially hoped to get along without a car for just a
year while she got her budget in order. That was some 3 1/2 years
Now she bikes the 15-mile round trip to and
from work most days. Meanwhile, Ortiz, who sells ads for the Chula
Vista Star-News newspaper, often leaves his car at the office for
daytime use and bikes home. That, he says, cuts his usual $90-a-week
gas bill in half.
"I know that not everybody can commute by
bike," Hampton said. "Sometimes it's too far; sometimes it's not
feasible because there are kids."
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Still, she says, people do have alternatives,
like carpooling and walking, to both cut down on fuel use or increase
the exercise they're getting.
"Doing it even one day a week is better than
not doing it at all," she said.
The U.S. Department of Energy and U.S.
Environmental Agency maintain an online site,
http://www.fueleconomy.gov, that provides tips drivers can use to improve gas mileage and has
links to sites that track gasoline prices on a state-by-state basis.
The AAA auto and travel association has a calculator on its site at
http://www.fuelgaugereport.com that lets families determine the
cost of gasoline for summer road trips.
Callahan of the Alliance to Save Energy said
drivers "get the biggest bang for their buck" by driving more
"For example, if you're driving aggressively on
the highway -- accelerating rapidly, speeding, braking too fast --
you could be decreasing your fuel economy by a third," she said.
Keeping a car idling for a long time can eat up
gas unnecessarily, Callahan said. And excess weight in a car -- say
from golf clubs that have found a near-permanent home in the trunk
-- can also reduce fuel efficiency.
Another way to hold down gasoline costs is to
keep the car well-maintained by getting regular tuneups, changing
oil and air filters, and checking tires for proper inflation, she
"You can get a 20 percent improvement in fuel
economy by doing that," she said.
Consumers can, of course, cut down on their
driving by taking a bus, train or other public transit to work. They
also can try to hold down the distances they drive regularly by
being smarter about their routes, Callahan said.
"On Saturday, you don't need to work out at the
gym, return home and have coffee, head out to the grocery, return
home, then go back out to pick up the dry-cleaning -- especially
when you're essentially going back to the exact same strip mall for
all of that," she said.
If you bundle your errands on the weekend, you
help the environment, save time and save money on gas, Callahan
Any money you save with make it easier to pay
for that holiday, she added.
"When you're driving on vacation, you know it
will be a luxury you can afford," she said.
from file received from AP
Digital; article by Eileen Alt Powell, AP business writer]