Simple Ideas Sometimes Work: Remember the Obama Tire Pressure Idea?

March 23, 2020

After sounding an alarm to others about of the importance of wearing DIY facemasks or homemade masks, I feel like many people dismiss the idea because of its simplicity. I am reminded of a historical moment during the course of the run up to the 2008 election. Out on the campaign trail, then candidate Barack Obama said that simple things can make a difference. He was immediately ridiculed by Republicans who assumed such a simple idea couldn’t be true. I feel as though the same sort of dismissive response to wearing DIY facemasks. Such a simple idea? If it worked, everyone would already be doing it! How could it possibly work?

Well sometimes simple things do work . What Candidate Obama actually was talking about were ways to reduce energy costs. Back then, unlike today, the price of oil and gasoline were high. Republicans were proposing off-shore drilling solutions. Obama had a different idea. He said this and Republicans went off on it:

“There are things that you can do individually though to save energy–making sure your tires are properly inflated, simple thing, but we could save all the oil that they’re talking about if everybody was just inflating their tires.” President Obama said we could reduce consumption of oil by about “3 to 4 percent.”

While fact-checkers dispute the validity of his statement on the technicalities, Republicans ridiculed it, only later to realize the general idea was in fact true. We could reduce gasoline prices by inflating our tires. At least according to NASCAR, which at the time recommended on their website that “tires be checked at least once a month and before every road trip coating further” to combat escalating fuel prices and that a focus on simple things “like proper tire pressure could maximize tire performance and increase fuel economy.”

Similarly, the Department of Energy was also promoting the idea of “proper tire inflation as a way to save money and cut gasoline.” Confronted with the fact that the DOE said that keeping tires properly inflated and aligned could improve your gasoline mileage by “around 3.3% time” many Republicans backtracked and moderated their statements.

If you hear an idea that sounds simple, before dismissing it on that basis, look into the facts. In 2008, it could have saved you some money. In 2020, when it comes to face masks, it could save your life!

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