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Spain lowers speed limit to save gas. Should the United States, too?

Consumer Reports News: March 09, 2011 05:00 PM

If some of the latest fashions weren't enough to convince you that the 1970s are back, Spain just implemented a lower national speed limit to save gas.

In response to higher oil prices resulting from Middle East unrest, Spain reduced its speed limit from 120 kilometers per hour to 110 kmh, the equivalent of 75 mph to 68 mph. The country expects the move to save 28.6 million barrels of oil, worth about $3.2 billion annually.

The government called the move temporary, but it is just one of many efforts Spain is making to reduce energy consumption, including plans to hand out 49 million compact fluorescent light bulbs and limit air conditioning setting in public buildings to no lower than 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

In 2008, the Department of Energy estimated that reducing the national speed limit on U.S. highways to 55 mph could save 175,000 to 275,000 barrels of oil per day, or up to 100 million barrels per year -- about 1 percent of total U.S. consumption.

In our own tests, we found that slowing down on the highway was an effective way drivers could save gas in their own cars. Slowing down from 65 mph to 55 mph raised the fuel economy in our 2005 Toyota Camry from 35 mpg to 40 mpg. (See our test-based gas-saving tips.)

The DOE report came in response to a request by then Senator John Warner (R-VA) who introduced a bill to reduce the national speed limit when gas prices spiked in 2008.

With shades of the 1970s oil crisis, how do you feel about reducing the national speed limit to save oil? Are you slowing down on your own to save money at the pump? 

We already know where Sammy Hagar comes down on this issue, but share your thoughts in the comments below.

Eric Evarts

Related: 10 tips to improve fuel economy and save money on gas

See our guide to fuel economy for advice on saving gasoline. Learn about future technologies in our guide to alternative fuels.

   

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