Pun Salad Does the Math

David Brooks, aka Granite Geek, grabs gas mileage data points as he navigates a short section of the F. E. Everett Turnpike in his Honda Civic hybrid.

After the first two three days, the results on the 5.4-mile stretch are:

at 59 miles per hour* - 63.5 MPG
at 60 miles per hour - 63.1 MPG
at 70 miles per hour - 54.8 MPG

See his article for details and caveats. But it occurred to me to ask some obvious questions:

How much difference in gas consumption is that? Well, between his 59MPH and 70MPH datapoints:

(5.4 miles/54.8 mpg - 5.4 miles/63.5 mpg) = 0.0135 gallons

How much money is that? Let's say gas is (moan) $3.50/gallon; that works out to

0.0135 gallons * $3.50/gallon = about 4.7 cents

How much time is lost? That would be:

(5.4 miles/59 mph - 5.4 miles/70 mph) = 0.0144 hours = about 52 seconds

So: is it worth 4.7 cents to shave 52 seconds off your drive time? As they say, your mileage may vary.

Ah, (you say) but the money adds up! But so does the time. Let's do the same calculations over 70 miles instead of 5.4:

money savings: 
    $3.50/gal * (70 mi/54.8 mpg - 70 mi/63.5 mpg) = 61 cents

time savings = 
    (70 mi / 59 mph - 70 mi / 70 mph) = 11 minutes

You have to drive about 375 miles before you save a whole hour at 70mph as opposed to 59mph. Using David's fuel economy numbers, you'd be buying slightly under a gallon of gas for that time savings, about $3.28 worth.

Drivers make their own calls on the time/money tradeoff but, even with high gas prices, it's not surprising that a lot of them would prefer to zip along at 70.

Monster.com has an illuminating article on cutting one's commuting costs. There's a lot of common-sense advice; e. g., keep your tires properly inflated. There are a number of suggestions where the tradeoffs in time and convenience are elided, e. g. pooling, mass transit. And finally, there's advice on looking for government/employer subsidies: in effect, getting other people to pay for your commute. Good luck with that.

Finally: I would have to turn in my Official Libertarian Propeller Beanie if I didn't point out good articles from Heritage, Cato, and CEI detailing why government-mandated fuel economy standards don't help the environment, don't save energy, but do nudge us into vehicles more likely to kill us. Unfortunately, Congress and the President ignored this advice; higher standards are on the way.

Last Modified 2012-10-12 8:25 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Your unintended consequence du jour is from the WSJ yesterday, describing the recent history of Congress's efforts on student loans, where a law passed last September put the industry in the tank, just in time for the upcoming academic year's loan applications:
    Usually, the law of unintended consequences takes so long to reveal itself that no one remembers the culprits. But the speed at which Congress's student lending changes have gone south is raising political danger for Democrats, if Republicans had the wit to point it out. (They don't; that's why they're Republicans.)
    The editorial provides a helpful summary:
    Congress mandated a return on student loans that is too low to attract private capital in the current market. So Congress will now use your money to create artificial investor demand. Taxpayers will bear more risk so that Congress can fashion a new business model to replace the one it just destroyed. The Bush Administration, unwisely but typically, has endorsed this approach.

    Via the brilliant Viking Pundit, also a dedicated observer of UCOs (Unintended Consequential Occurrences).

  • At the Weekly Standard, John Podhoretz looks at the dismal job Hollywood does in portraying college professors. I know some of those, and JPod has a pretty good point, and presents it amusingly well. He looks at the latest attempt:
    You can't blame moviemakers, really. It is very difficult for a defiantly anti-intellectual medium like the cinema to capture what is interesting about someone who spends much of his life living inside his own head. The latest casualty is Smart People, a movie in which -Dennis Quaid plays a fearsomely highbrow English professor. Yes, you read that right: Dennis Quaid plays a fearsomely highbrow English professor. This is on a par with Jessica Simpson playing Madame Curie.
    Nevertheless, it's already in my Blockbuster queue.

    (Unaccountably, JPod fails even to mention Ronald Reagan's performance as Professor Peter Boyd in Bedtime for Bonzo. What kind of conservative magazine are they running there anyway?)

  • But never mind professors. What about college administrators? Aren't their movie portrayals pretty much all stamped from the Dean Wormer mold? Well, there's arguably a good reason for that…

    You may remember this YouTube from a few months back, where some clever folks put subtitles on a clip from Downfall, turning Adolph Hitler into a very disappointed (and, our more sensitive readers should note, a very foulmouthed) Dallas Cowboys fan:

    You can't get away with such shenanigans in North Dakota, though:

    Officials at [the University of North Dakota] and [North Dakota State University] today condemned a Web video that began circulating Wednesday that links the rivalry between the two schools with images of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
    Yes, they did exactly the same thing, except the subtitles turn Hitler into a UND fan.
    At first, Hitler consoles himself, saying “we still have hockey.” He later becomes irate, yelling “I’m sick and tired of hearing about the Bison,” denigrating UND’s declining student enrollment and making personal attacks on UND administrators, particularly President Charles Kupchella.
    Quoted officials are full of earnest humorlessness on the topic:
    UND Spokesman Peter Johnson said he was “disappointed by the personal attacks” in the video.
    Dude, the personal attacks are coming from Hitler! Wouldn't a normal person consider those to be compliments?
    NDSU vice president for university relations Keith Bjerke was more severe in his denunciation.

    “I just got off the phone with the president (NDSU President Joseph Chapman). He’s in Korea and thank God he hasn’t seen this,” Bjerke said. “All I can say is there’s nothing about Adolf Hitler that I find amusing. We don’t support, condone or endorse anything he’s babbling about.”

    A brave anti-Hitler stance, indeed! I hope Keith will be able to weather the criticism he's in for from the pro-Hitler crowd!

    All I can say is, if North Dakota wants to be known as anti-Hitler, they should rename their capital.

  • Iron Man is a mere one week away. I'm psyched, and trying to avoid reading anything about the movie that might contain spoilers. Spoilers beyond those contained in the various trailers I've watched a few hundred times, anyway.

    Over at Wired, physics prof James Kakalios describes, in a spoiler-free way, the various ways Tony Stark's suit defies physical law. And indicates why geeks consider Shellhead one of their very own:

    This is due, in part, to the fact that instead of getting belted with gamma rays or being born a demon from hell, industrialist and scientist Tony Stark got his super powers by means of his engineering genius.
    Stark is yet another engineer who doesn't know quite enough physics to realize the wonderful stuff he's doing is impossible.

Last Modified 2012-10-12 9:24 AM EDT