Getting ahead in the 'gas game'

Peter Navarro is the author of "The Well-Timed Strategy" and plays the gas game commuting to UC Irvine. He can be reached at

IF WE WANT to find another million barrels of a oil a day to fill our gas tanks, we don't need to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We need to learn the "gas game."

I test-drove a Toyota Prius recently after totaling my car. I was particularly taken by the hybrid's gauges, which scream how much gasoline and electricity you're using at any given moment.

The first thing you learn is how a heavy foot on the accelerator draws down your gas tank. More subtly, the Prius' gauges sensitize you to the contours of the road. But you don't need to buy a Prius to play the gas game. All you have to do is implement the lessons its gauges teach. The game's goal is to maximize miles per gallon per tank of gas.

Some lessons:

* Find more slopes to glide down.

* Redesign your routes about town to avoid as many stoplights and as much congestion as possible. You might drive a little farther to your destination, but you will use less gas.

* All that speed-limit propaganda is true. In the gas game, a sure losing move is to zip along at 80 mph rather than at the posted freeway speeds.

* Keep your eyes on the road. By watching traffic more carefully, you learn how to back off the accelerator more quickly and glide into an approaching red light or area of congestion, rather than simply stepping hard on the brakes.

I opted for a traditional gas guzzler, a used one at that. Still, by playing the gas game, I can consistently increase mileage by about 10% or more on every tank.

And here's the thing: If every American Prius-ized his or her driving habits, this nation could cut its oil imports by about a million barrels a day. That's about how much oil we could get drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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