This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With two miles to the nearest neighbor, six miles to the nearest paved road and 45 mountain miles to the nearest gas station, it didn't take our family long to see how rising gas prices affect our daily lives. Farming family or city dweller, we're all in the same dollar-stretching rowboat moored to a diminished American financial lifestyle. But the gas hikes hit home even harder in rural communities, where choice and competition among gas stations are fewer.
And farm families have to burn gas to run farm equipment, tractors and the like. This adds to the expense of raising crops and livestock and the transportation of food products, whether they come from American farms or are imported. In the end, higher gas prices affect all of us, as as a trip to the grocery story clearly shows.
I thought that the tried and true ideas that many farm families already practice might help others make the most efficient use of every drop of gasoline. Here are 10 tips:
- Keep your car in tip-top condition. Key areas are: Proper alignment, fluid levels, a good tune-up, oil changes, a well-serviced transmission and proper air pressure. Even without a gas crisis, you should keep up with car maintenance. Farm families already do this because it is a very long walk to town.
- If you have more than one vehicle, drive the one that gets the best gas mileage most often. Don't get hung up on comfort, newness or what others might think. You'll feel a lot better winning the war on high gas prices.
- Drive in the most fuel economical manner at all times: Slow down, don't tailgate, stop racing through red lights. For every 10 miles an hour faster you drive, you lose about 5 miles a gallon in fuel efficiency? Please think in terms of conserving gas.
- When on the highway for extended periods of time, use your cruise control. A stable speed is more fuel efficient. It's also safer.
- Map out your outings and shopping trips in advance. In a rural community, a trip to town for groceries and other items is a well-planned event. A trip to the convenience to replace an item wastes time, money and precious gas. This same mindset should apply no matter where you live. Know what your family needs to make it from pay day to pay day. Even better, try to improvise or do without, until the date for the next planned trip.
- Go to your farthest destination first, so your engine has a chance to reach its optimal operating temperature. Then, make your other stops on the way back. Despite the convenience, eliminate all drive-through fast food. You are already paying enough to clog your arteries.
- Turn your car off instead of wasting gas idling. Bear in mind, idling burns about a half a mile of gas for every minute. That means, if you sit with the engine idling for 10 minutes, you've hastened your next trip to buy gas by another five miles. Look at idling, in the mindset that you are getting ZERO miles per gallon.
- Using your air conditioner only reduces your gas consumption efficiency by one mile per gallon. Rolling down your windows to keep cool does exactly the same, gas wise. So go ahead: Run your air conditioner and be comfortable.
- Share outings with friends, family and neighbors by combining forces and sharing gas costs.
- "Think" before you hop in the car. Do I really need to go out? Can this errand be done later, on the way to elsewhere? Can I meet someone half way? Will a phone call work as well as a visit?
In simple terms: "Not driving as much, means more money in your wallet at the end of the month!"
Jerilee Wei of Wyoming is a freelance writer, mother, grandmother and health-care advocate.