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Tire Inflation Becomes Unlikely Campaign Issue

Who would have thought that most mundane of all topics — proper tire inflation — would become a hot button political issue in the 2008 US presidential campaign? But that’s what happened when Barack Obama recently suggested to voters in Missouri that they could reduce their fuel costs and conserve energy by keeping their tires properly inflated and getting their vehicles regularly tuned up. Here is the YouTube of the excerpt.

The Republican leadership has pounced on the statement as some sort of gaffe. Seems like an odd issue to seize upon (what could be more non-partisan than tire pressure?), but then this has been an odd election season. Newt Gingrich described Obama’s suggestion as “loony tunes,” and the Republican National Committee has taken to distributing tire gauges labeled “Barack Obama’s Energy Plan” to reporters and potential donors, a stunt that Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal has labeled the start of the “electoral silly season.” Michael Grunwald of Time has an article here pointing out that the data support Obama on this one.

Readers may also be interested to know that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was signed into law by President Bush in December 19, 2007, includes something called the “Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act.” As detailed in Section 32304A, Consumer Tire Information, this law includes a provision to create by December 2009 a consumer education program that would entail the following four components (emphasis mine):

(A) a national tire fuel efficiency rating system for motor vehicle replacement tires to assist consumers in making more educated tire purchasing decisions; (B) requirements for providing information to consumers, including information at the point of sale and other potential information dissemination methods, including the Internet; (C) specifications for test methods for manufacturers to use in assessing and rating tires to avoid variation among test equipment and manufacturers; and (D) a national tire maintenance consumer education program including, information on tire inflation pressure, alignment, rotation, and tread wear to maximize fuel efficiency, safety, and durability of replacement tires.

So educating consumers about proper tire inflation is actually part of President Bush’s own energy policy. Readers may also be interested in the Transportation Research Board’s report “Tires and Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy,” which has extensive information on tire inflation and rolling resistance in passenger tires. The PDF of the report is below. transportation-research-board-sr-286


Update: Speaking in Berea, Ohio, Barack Obama responded to the tire gauge taunts, thus ensuring that this issue will remain in the headlines for another news cycle or two. Oh well, maybe some of those tire gauges will actually get used.

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