McCain is sending out tire gauges to ridicule Sen. Obama's suggestion last week that one thing citizens can do right now to lower gas costs is to make sure their tires are properly inflated. The U.S. government itself apparently states that proper tire inflation can increase gas mileage 3.3%. This is actually a quite significant gain in fuel economy. If the number of people who keep their tires properly inflated increased one-thousand fold, we would be talking a noticeable impact on fuel usage.
McCain is starting to get blowback on his ridiculing proper tire inflation as unimportant. Pundits are starting to compare what we would get out of actually keeping our tires properly inflated to what we would get out of allowing new offshore drilling (see, e.g., today's Countdown segment on Olbermann).
Now I'm thinking Obama should not back off from his remark or just shrug off this ridicule by McCain. In fact, he should employ political jiu-jitsu and "inflate" this otherwise minor part of his response to energy issues to show he is the candidate who actually wants to achieve lower gas usage, which in turn leads to lower overall gas prices through cutting demand. Here's how (below the jump):
Obama should call for a serious national campaign to get and keep our tires properly inflated. He should include in his energy policy the creation of a national program to get tons more tires properly inflated through setting up mobile tire inflation stations in parking lots all over the U.S. Volunteers or interns would staff the mobile stations, and not only assist people to get their tires inflated but provide brochures and CD's on practical ways to increase fuel mileage, lower electricity use, etc. The biggest problem in keeping our tires inflated is the lack of convenient ways to do it now, and secondly, not being in the habit of checking tire inflation regularly. The staff at the mobile tire inflation stations could hand out refrigerator magnet type calendars to mark off the last time a person checked his tire inflation. The recommended period is to check once a month. Of course they would also hand out inexpensive tire gauges.
This "pro inflation" program might include dispensing coupons for discounts for purchasing home electric tire inflators. I've got one and use it on my family's bikes, but haven't really used it on my cars (one being a Prius, I had to get that in). But now I am thinking about it and will start checking the car tires regularly. We need to get everyone doing that. Setting up "tire inflation" stations everywhere for a day at a time, or better yet in the same 10,000 places every weekend, would create a small cost to the public (as taxpayers paying for this program), but we'd get a big payoff in raised public consciousness, not to mention the original point, a significant increase in efficient use of gas. NASCAR could co-sponsor the "Campaign to Inflate." There's lots of ways to tie such a tire inflation program into other lowering energy use programs, while uniting strange bedfellows on the goal of energy efficiency.
Advocating such a program right away would provide the benefit of showing McCain's thoughtlessness and superficiality on this serious issue. Obama himself can joke that "Obama is full of air" to turn McCain's jibes on themselves.
Update: Let's go even further here, the Obama campaign should set up mobile tire inflation stations as part of its voter registration drives. I've registered voters for Obama. This "Inflation Program" would draw people to a booth in a parking lot, and then we could hand out "Obama Gets Air" lapel pins (for the unitiated, "getting air" is a big goal in a lot of skateboarding tricks, so its a hep phrase).