Fuelishness! -- The FuelClinic.com Blog

Energy Secretary Chu Admits Administration OK with High Gas Prices

The Heritage Foundation points out that hammering the American consumer with high gas prices to make electric and hybrid cars more appealing is consistent with Obama administration policy and Chu’s philosophy. That explains the refusal to allow the building of the Keystone XL pipeline and to allow drilling in wide areas of the U.S. and offshore areas.

The consequences of the policy are not likely to be of benefit to the Obama administration. The Republican National Committee has already issued a video highlighting the spike in gas prices and the failure of the administration to address the issue.

Read the rest

The US Military Going Green, Again Leading By Example…

Green isn’t just for camouflage any more. The US military recognizes the need to become more efficient, less dependent, and more sustainable.

From a green economy perspective, this legislation could not be more important. The military’s huge demand for energy translates into enormous market pull. By creating a market for biofuels and green technology, the military can spur further research and drive down the price of clean energy to levels that would be competitive with traditional energy sources. According to analysis presented at a congressional briefing on the Defense Department’s Deployment of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, section 526 sends positive signals to the green energy sector by reassuring clean energy producers that their investments will be met with steady demand from the DoD. Such stability is critical for any burgeoning industry.

Read the rest at the Epoch Times.

Maryland Dimming Street Lights in Effort to Save Money

January 26, 2011 · Filed Under Governments, Intelligent Transportation Systems, United States · Comment 

Baltimore Sun:

In an effort to save energy and money, the State Highway Administration has cut back its overhead lighting on a six-mile stretch of the highway. If results from the year-long test are favorable, officials say, the state could reduce lighting on other highways…

…The experiment has raised concerns about safety in some quarters. For many motorists, a well-lit roadway is comforting, and many studies over the decades have shown that bright lights — in the right places — can save lives.

Highway officials said that even with fewer lights, the illumination of Route 100 will remain well within federal standards. But AAA Mid-Atlantic still has concerns about the test.

“With the nation’s motorists aging rapidly, we need to keep in mind they tend to have more difficulty seeing to drive safely at night. We worry that deactivating highway lighting could curtail motorists’ safety,” said AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise.

Incentivizing Drivers to Conserve Fuel – Bob Stanton, Polk County Florida

Bob Stanton is one of the most forward-thinking fleet managers in the country. He runs the Polk County, Florida government fleet, and has been referenced here in Fuelishness! and BrightFleet.com several times for his experience implementing a highly successful eco-driving program in Polk County. Today he gives a insight into his motivations and successful execution of his program in an article published at Government Fleets called “Incentivizing Drivers to Conserve Fuel“.

By only reading industry publications, one might presume fuel conservation success can be achieved by technology alone through the use of alternative fuels, hybrid, or all-electric vehicles. The Clean Air Act of 1990 certainly steered governments in that direction and now, 20 years later, it’s clear that legislation failed to achieve tangible results. Governments at all levels nationwide have collectively invested billions in technology, which at best has yielded marginal fuel conservation success, and at worst, the technology, hardware, and vehicles have been scrapped at enormous cost. A negative return on investment (ROI) is certainly hard to justify for any organization, public or private.

Mr. Stanton makes a great point, that the focus on a technology-based approach to fuel efficient fleets has nearly completely ignored the contributions of the vehicle operator to the safe and efficient use of the vehicle.

…In summer 2008, Polk County went where few other fleets have gone — to its drivers. All studies show the largest single contributor to fuel use and/or conservation is the driver. Polk County decided the quickest route to meaningful fuel conservation was to target driver behavior and modify it where possible.

A three-pronged approach was used to modify driver behavior. First, the maximum travel speed of the County’s on-highway vehicles was limited to 55 mph. An in-house Eco-Driver training program was developed to train, reinforce, and promote driving habits proven to reduce fuel consumption and assure driver buy-in, and the County added an incentive program to allow employees to share monetarily in their own conservation success.

There are numerous studies, from reputable government and industry sources around the word, that have shown a direct relationship to operator performance and fuel efficiency, with additional benefit to driver & general road safety.

As noted above, the driver is the greatest single factor influencing fuel economy. According to Bridgestone’s Real Answers magazine, up to 35 percent of a vehicle’s mpg is directly attributable to the driver.

The County endeavored to modify behind-the-wheel driver behavior by developing an in-house “Eco Driver” training program to educate drivers about the simple driving techniques that result in tangible mpg improvements.

Bob Stanton’s own project has netted Polk County significant benefits in fuel efficiency and accident reductions:

Over the two years since implementation, Polk County achieved the following results:

  • Fuel consumption reduced by 13.4 percent, or 436,000 gallons.
  • Reduced 6.2 million lbs. of carbon.
  • Reduced preventable accidents by 22 percent.
  • Crash damage severity reduced by 35 percent.

These results are irrefutable. The overall hard dollar savings seen by Polk County due to these incentives have exceeded $1.5 million. The cost of the program is minimal. Beyond the $800 decal cost and the one-hour training time, the program has cost the County nothing.

Even the incentive payouts came at little cost. The incentive payouts originated from dollars saved versus dollars spent.

As a result of its success, the Polk County School Board adopted the 55-mph restriction in May 2010 and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently studying the program for statewide adoption.

As oil prices continue to rise to pre-economic-collapse prices at the same time austerity measures are being discussed at state and federal levels, eco-driving is a proven method that fleet drivers and average motorists can take immediate action to see real reductions in both fuel consumption and accident rates.

Jersey Turnpike Buys System to Predict When You Will Be Sitting in Traffic

Via Bloomberg

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority said it hopes to begin alerting motorists to traffic jams — 10 minutes before they occur.

The agency, which manages the two main toll roads in the most densely populated U.S. state, approved the awarding of a $652,000 contract to En Pointe Technologies Inc.

The El Segundo, California-based company has a computer system that is designed to give drivers an early heads-up on developing traffic jams, to allow them more time to detour away from congestion, Brian Gorman, director of technology, told members of the authority’s board at their regular meeting today.

The system was tested on the 148-mile (238-kilometer) New Jersey Turnpike and the 173-mile Garden State Parkway, which stretches from Cape May to the New York state line. It predicted traffic with at least 90 percent accuracy, Gorman said. Motorists will be alerted to potential problems through electronic signage on the highways.

“We do have the ability to prevent congestion disruption,” Gorman said.

I have written similar software for the DC metro area, and it predicts traffic jams most Mondays through Fridays from 7:30am to 9:00am, and again from 3:30pm to 5:00pm.

Military Continues to Test Alternative Aviation Bio-Fuels

Some additional information regarding how the DoD is exploring options to ween the military away from petroleum based fuels.

On Earth Day, 22 April, the US Navy conducted a test flight of an F/A-18 Super Hornet at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, run on a 50-percent mixture of a fuel refined from the crushed seeds of the flowering Camelina sativa plant. The flight of the Green Hornet, as it was called, followed an Air Force test a month earlier of an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, fueled with a similar blend.

Both events had the purpose of testing the performance of biofuel/petroleum mixtures with an eye toward the eventual certification of the fuels for routine use. They also demonstrate the efforts of the Department of Defense to increase its use of renewable energy, not only for environmental reasons but also to protect the military from energy price fluctuations and dependence on overseas sources of petroleum.

The DoD spends $20 billion a year on energy and incurs $1.3 billion in additional costs for every $10 per barrel increase in the market price of oil, according to a report recently released by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate. In addition to vulnerability to price fluctuations, the DoD’s “reliance on fossil fuels also compromises combat effectiveness by restricting mobility, flexibility and endurance on the battlefield,” said the report. “Transportation of fuel to the combat theater is a significant vulnerability as fuel convoys are targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Read the rest…

Source: ISN Security Watch

Charging Motorists by the Mile More Reliable Than Fuel Tax, Says Study

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Charging motorists for every mile they drive could be more reliable than fuel taxes to pay for bridges, highways and transit systems, but would be hard to sell to motorists, according to a national policy group.

A RAND Corp. study released last week concluded there were good reasons to switch from charging gas taxes to charging fees based on how far each car or truck travels. The government gets most of the money for road construction and maintenance from gas taxes, but cars and trucks put more wear and tear on roads while inflation and better fuel efficiency make the fuel tax worth less and less, said Paul Sorensen, lead author of the study…

…Collecting the fee would be more expensive than administering the gas tax; putting tracking units in cars likely would raise privacy concerns; and changing the fee wouldn’t be any more popular than changing the federal gas tax — which hasn’t increased from 18.3 cents per gallon since 1993, Sorensen said.

Read the whole article here, then join in the discussion over at the FuelClinic Facebook page.

Driver Distraction: New Presidential Text-Messaging-While-Driving Ban

President Obama’s new ban on text messaging behind the wheel of government vehicles and texting in personal vehicles if using government-issued phones or on official business is an important warning to motorists to the dangers of distracted driving.

Federal employees will not be allowed to text while driving, according to an executive order signed Wednesday night by President Obama.

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray H. LaHood on Thursday announced the measures aimed at curbing what he called a deadly epidemic of distracted driving.

The order covers federal employees when they are using government-provided cars or cellphones and when they are using their own phones and cars to conduct government business.

Separately, the federal government plans to ban text messaging by bus drivers and truckers who travel across state lines, and may also preclude them from using cellphones while driving, except in emergencies.

Tragically, distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year. Texting is becoming more and more popular with both teens and adults, and many of those teens who grew up texting are now getting behind the wheel as inexperienced – and distracted – drivers.  

Last year, 5,870 people died and 515,000 were injured nationally in crashes linked to distracted driving – often due to the increasing number of drivers who juggle cell phones, BlackBerries, and other gadgets.

Drivers who talk on cell phones are four times as likely to crash, regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free device, studies show. In fact, a yakking driver is just as much a road hazard as one who is legally drunk. Texting poses even greater risks, since motorists have to take their eyes off the road.

It’s not just cell phones and text messages. The availability and variety of in-car gadgets continues to grow, and with it the potential for distracting drivers long enough to reduce reaction time and rob drivers of that critical second or two that could mean the difference between accident avoidance or tragedy.

The Death of “Cash For Clunkers”

August 20, 2009 · Filed Under FuelClinic, LinkedIn, Tax Credits, Twitter, United States · Comment 

Seems like everyone has had enough ofCash for Clunkers“:

The Obama administration plans to end the popular $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program on Monday, giving car shoppers a few more days to take advantage of big government incentives.

The Transportation Department said Thursday the government will wind down the program on Monday at 8 p.m. EDT. Car buyers can receive rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models…

…Through Thursday, auto dealers have made deals worth $1.9 billion and are on pace to exhaust the program’s $3 billion in early September. The incentives have generated more than 457,000 vehicle sales. Administration officials said they have reviewed nearly 40 percent of the transactions and have already paid out $145 million to dealers.

Administration officials said applications for rebates will not be accepted after 8 p.m. EDT Monday and dealers should not make additional sales without receiving all the necessary paperwork from their customers. Dealers will be able to resubmit rejected applications after the deadline.

Not soon enough, IMHO


New Truck:


Jag on Fire:


V10 Super Duty:

Announcing: IOU’s For Clunkers

If you’ve read this blog at all over the last month you know I do not support the CARS program because of it’s excessive wastefulness and questionable effect – perfectly good vehicles and used car parts being destroyed before their normal usable life-span in a dangerous and dirty government mandated procedure.

Now we’re learning that dealerships who participated and “fronted” the $3500 to $4500 government rebate to the customers are now having trouble getting the actual rebate from the government, causing immediate cash flow problems. They basically sold cars at a loss, intending to “make” their profit from somewhere in the rebate check.

If you remember the program works because the government offers consumers a roughly $4500 dollar rebate.

So every clunker a dealership takes in puts them in the red until the government reimburses them. “What you have is hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting out there waiting for the government to pay,” Speers said.
Sheppard Auto has yet to see any cash, “I’m not concerned,” Speers continued, “I think we will get paid, it’s just going to take longer than we anticipated.”

That is fine for big dealerships like Sheppard Motors and Kendall Auto. Kendall’s CEO said they have been paid for 84 of their clunkers, but they have sold about 600.

For smaller dealerships, keeping up with this could be trouble. “A small dealership would have a tough time continuing with this,” Jeff Shutt the GM of Nissan Lithia in Eugene said.

They are doing alright, despite not getting reimbursed for all their clunkers, but there are rumors in the industry that some small dealerships may have to discontinue the program, if they don’t see some cash fast.

Now dealers are waiting on the mailman, hoping that the check arrives soon enough to pay the bills. Wonderful. Payments are so slow that many dealers are opting-out of the IOU’s for Clunkers program.

What are your thoughts? Did you take advantage of C4C? If so, how did it work out for you?

UPDATE: Even more good news over at the LA Examiner

Natasha Bishop: My understanding of the program is that a customer comes in with their clunker and they hand it over to a dealership for a credit of $2500 to $4500 towards a new car.  Does the customer immediately get to take the new car home?

Megan N: The dealership must release the sold car even if government money has not yet been received.

Natasha Bishop:  Your dealership hands over the new car before any rebate money is seen?

Megan N:  Dealerships are having to front the cost and hope that they will get reimbursed by the government. Many dealerships would like to hold onto the sold car until they receive the government money.

Natasha Bishop:  That seems like a big risk for dealerships.  Why can’t dealerships hold cars?

Megan N:  The government is telling customers to report dealerships as they MUST release the car to the customer at time of purchase.

Natasha Bishop:  How does the dealership get their rebate for each clunker sale?

Megan N:  There are well over 20 pages of paperwork the dealership must fill out for each “Cash for Clunker” sold vehicle.  If there is one mistake on this paperwork the government will deny that dealership the money “rebate” for that sold vehicle. There are NO second chances to re-do this paperwork.

Natasha Bishop:  Sounds like dealerships could potentially lose millions of dollars from this program.  What happens to the clunkers when they are turned over to the dealership?

Fuelishness! Feed: $700B Gains from Energy Efficiency; Bio-Engineering Algea; Cash for Clunkers FAIL; Cellphone Use as Deadly as Drunk Driving; Merits of a Gasoline-Diesel ‘Cocktail’

The ugly truth about the so called “Cash for Clunkers” program

August 3, 2009 · Filed Under Congress, FuelClinic, LinkedIn, Oil & Politics, Twitter, United States · 3 Comments 

c4c2The ugly truth about the so called “Cash for Clunkers” program is that it has very little to do with improving our energy problems, increasing fuel efficiency, or protecting the environment.

The mandated “engine destruction procedure” is dangerous – spewing hot oil and coolant into the air around the engine compartment – and in some cases starting fires in the engine compartment. Wait until someone is maimed for life from a steam explosion during this procedure.

The mandated “engine destruction procedure” is filthy – causing a maximum amount of emissions from the engine during the procedure. High temperatures also cause engine coolant (a poison) to boil and sometimes explode from the engine with an uncontrolled low-pressure steam explosion. 

The mandated “engine destruction procedure” is wasteful – all internal engine parts need not be destroyed to render the car “un-sellable”. All that is needed is a simple annotation in the state’s vehicle VIN record that the car is “scrap”, and you can not get a title for that car – no one will buy a car they can not title.  You can then recycle those car parts into the used-car-parts market.

Here’s a YouTube playlist with over 80 Cash-For-Clunkers “Engine Stop” videos:

The CARS program effectively buys and destroys your old oil-addicted vehicle, and helps you replace it with a moderately more fuel efficient oil-addicted vehicle – prolonging the overall lifespan of our oil-addicted fleet of vehicles in American garages!

The government jumped too soon… we don’t have viable alternative-fuels established yet to usher in the much anticipated post-petroleum era in transportation… If you are truly trying to fix our problems, you’d have waited to incentivize a change to whatever is “next” – instead of prolonging the history of 100% oil-dependency.

(Of course we could have had at least some choice with FlexFuel, had Congress not failed to mandate this low-cost alternative be built-in to new cars many times over the last few years.) 

Even worse, Congress is so enamoured with the “success” of CARS that they are going to fund it up some more by taking money out for real energy efficiency research programs! 

It boggles my mind really – and I’m a fuel-efficiency nut who spends much of his “free” time promoting fuel efficiency! You’d think I’d love this program… instead I can’t get beyond what and an ugly display of excess it is to needlessly destroy working vehicles that still have value. 

My brain is about to have an  uncontrolled low-pressure steam explosion of it’s own.

The NY Times says Government Can Promote Energy Efficiency – why not start with a program that can actually accomplish a great deal of success w/o a great deal of up-front costs?

Announcing “Cash for Un-Clunkers” Program

c4c2Are you driving an un-clunker like this recently destroyed Volvo S80? You’ve heard about the “Cash for Clunkers” program where you can turn in that un-clunker worth $10K to $15K for a government “allowance” of $3.5K or $4.5K off another new car that gets better gas mileage? 

Sure that un-clunker will get it’s engine destroyed in a dirty and unsafe procedure, effectively wasting all of the energy and resources used to build it — but you just want to save money and be more energy efficient! Right?

What if I told you there is an alternative program, one that will help you save money and measurably improve your vehicle’s fuel economy… 

“Cash for Un-Clunkers” – Keep Your Un-Clunker & More of Your Cash

The “Cash for Un-Clunkers” plan requires no government funding, does not require you to take a new loan, pays you back for every mile you drive, can increase fuel efficiency of any vehicle, and can be immediately rolled-out nationwide. 

Everyone is pre-qualified, there is no red-tape, you can take advantage of the free program right now, and it applies to every single motor vehicle ever made.  

Keep your “Un-clunker” – and upgrade your driving habits instead – improving your fuel mileage  10%, 20%, or more – without new car payments or destroying the existing re-sale value of your property.

Potential side-effects of “Cash for Un-Clunkers” include:

  1. Increased levels of personal-safety for you and those sharing the road with you.
  2. Reduced stress and anxiety as you no longer jockey and compete against other drivers, instead begin competing “against” the gas pump or your best mileage record.
  3. Reduction in the frequency or severity of traffic citations – contributing to lower insurance costs over time.
  4. Overall improvements in traffic flow and reduction of accidents, injuries, and congestion.
  5. You may experience a dizzy sensation when you realize how much money you could have saved last year.
  6. Some swelling of your purchasing-power if you re-sell your car when you are done with it – or – a reduction of your tax burden if you choose to donate your car to charity.

Program Basics:

The “Cash for Un-Clunkers” program allows for various levels of participation. You can tailor the program to your own requirements, participating at a level that is comfortable to you and fits your lifestyle. The more actively you participate, the greater your savings and success at achieving greater fuel economy. 

At the most basic level, the program encourages these simple and effective techniques, mostly geared to the conservation of momentum and maximizing your engine’s mechanical advantage. In city driving, you can expect to save 10% to 20% (or more) following those guidelines as often as possible. There are additional techniques that will help you even more, like keeping top-speed below 65 MPH on the highway (depending on your car’s specific aerodynamics, engine, transmission, and tire configuration your optimum highway speed may vary).

Additionally, professional eco-driving instruction delivered by certified eco-driving instructors will soon be available in the United States for fleet owners or individuals interested in maximizing their fuel efficiency through driver training. 

Participating websites:

  • FuelClinic.com – Our local favorite. Improve your driving habits, track your success. 
  • EcoDrive$mart.com – Our partner site. Take Eco-Driving quiz, learn about certified Eco-Driving training available soon in the US through our new partnership.
  • FuelEconomy.gov – A government website about improving fuel efficiency? Yes – one of the best around.

“Cash for Clunkers” vs. “Cash for Un-Clunkers”

[Updated: New link to “Cash for Un-Clunkers” added]

Far from a model of energy-efficiency, the CARS (Cash for Clunkers) program creates a system that encourages mind-boggling waste of energy, money, and natural resources.

The word “clunker” makes you think of cars with no real value left, in poor mechanical shape, incredibly inefficient, outdated, unsafe, and already a problem for the owner. The government program assumes the clunker is such a problem that the it requires that the “trade-ins” drive-train be destroyed within 2 days, else the dealer is fined $15,000. In reality, there are perfectly good vehicles with lots of value remaining – and can get measurably much better mileage if driven efficiently – being turned in and destroyed. 

Take for example this video of a decidedly “un-clunky” Volvo S40 or S80 being destroyed as part of the CARS program. All of the energy used to produce that car is completely wasted, even if it would still have value in the used car market.

WARNING: This is a surprisingly graphic video – especially if you are a “car guy”. This top-quality machine literally screams as the “liquid glass” solution (used in place of motor oil) scours the moving parts inside this engine, eventually overheating it enough to start a fire in the engine compartment, and puking it’s last remaining ounces of red-hot oil out onto the ground in front of it as it finally seizes up.

Some thoughts on this video:

  1. That’s a well engineered, safe, and fairly efficient high-quality car that apparently ran well when turned in.
  2. It has obvious value remaining (KBB says around $13K).
  3. I can’t believe it ran for over 4 minutes with sodium silicate instead of oil. 
  4. Thank goodness it didn’t puke up that red-hot oil all over the young man as he reached across the engine to put the oil fill cap (?) back on.  

On Wednesday it was announced that the program was suspended – some say it was because dealership couldn’t get their paperwork filed fast enough to not go bankrupt in the short-term, others said it was because the program was too successful and already “spent” all of it’s funding. Then yesterday it was announced that the program would be re-funded, using grants previously slated for other energy-efficiency improvement programs. 

I propose a different plan called: “Cash for Un-Clunkers

Can anyone answer me “why” we should scrap perfectly good cars instead of invest in improving driving habits?

Fuelishness! Feed: U.S. gasoline prices hover around $2.66; Have gas prices peaked for summer; States Consider Gas and Oil Levies; IEA slashes oil demand forecast

June 29, 2009 · Filed Under Oil & Politics, Oil Industry, United States · 2 Comments 
  • U.S. gasoline prices hover around $2.66/gallon: survey — The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States remained virtually unchanged from two weeks ago as crude oil prices hovered at about $70 per barrel, according to an industry analyst.
  • Have gas prices peaked for summer? — After running up every day for nearly two straight months, gasoline prices have fallen this week — as they typically do a little before or after the Fourth of July holiday.
  • States Consider Gas and Oil Levies — Cash-strapped states are considering raising taxes on oil production to plug yawning budget gaps, but they face strong resistance from oil companies, which warn the moves could lead to lost jobs and higher energy prices.
  • IEA slashes oil demand forecast — The International Energy Agency on Monday cut sharply its medium-term forecast for oil demand because of economic recession, but said the threat of a supply crunch had only receded, not gone away.
  • Nigerian militants say attack Shell despite amnesty — Nigeria’s main militant group said its fighters had attacked an oil facility belonging to Royal Dutch Shell in the Niger Delta on Monday, days after President Umaru Yar’Adua proposed an amnesty.

First Look: Houston We Have a Problem [Movie Trailer]

Here’s a first look at the trailer for a new film Houston We Have a Problem – a feature documentary about America’s ferocious appetite for oil from the insider’s perspective.


Exploring our dangerous addiction to oil through candid insights from the Barons, Wildcatters, CEO’s and Roughnecks that comprise the world of Big Oil. This film is an inside look into the culture of oil that explores the history of our dependency that has led us to our current ENERGY CRISIS.

We learn how the perceived perpetrators of this critical American problem understand its complexities better than anybody. These seasoned professionals and New Wildcatters are presenting innovative strategies with a systemic shift to renewable, sustainable energy sources.

For too long, the energy policy of this country has been dictated by lobbyists and knee-jerk political decisions but now, politicians and business are finally joining together for a solution

The film premiered at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival earlier this year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to be there. There is, however, an interesting interview from the festival with director Nicole Torre and producer Eric Mofford where they talk about how the motivation for the film developed out of a conversation where two people, representing two distinctly different political and social perspectives, were able to overcome the obvious obstacles and discuss real solutions to the shared crisis.

I talked briefly with the film’s director Nicole Torre yesterday who told me they are still shopping it around for national theatrical distribution, and the screening schedule and DVD release date is not yet available.

You can learn more about the film Houston We Have  Problem and it’s schedule at their website, or on the film’s FaceBook page.

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