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Gingrich Claims Tire Inflation Lines Big Oil’s Pockets

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"Gingrich Claims Tire Inflation Lines Big Oil’s Pockets"

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Last night on Fox News, host Sean Hannity and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) returned (as they often do) to Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) recent suggestion that Americans inflate their tires properly in order to save energy costs.

Seeming to outdo his previous false attacks on this issue, Gingrich claimed that Obama’s idea is actually encouraging Americans to “enrich Big Oil” because selling air has “a higher profit margin than selling gasoline”:

GINGRICH: Well, I got a very funny e-mail from a retired military officer in Tampa who pointed out that most tire inflation is done at service stations and you pay for it. And it’s actually a higher profit margin than selling gasoline. So Sen. Obama was urging you to go out and enrich Big Oil by inflating your tires instead of buying gas.

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This claim is absurd for a number of reasons. First, gas station owners, not Big Oil, receive the profits from selling air — if they sell air at all (presumably from mechanized air machines). Second, air is free. So of course the profit margin for selling air is going be higher than a gallon of gas. By contrast, the cost of oil accounts for a significant portion of the price of gasoline. So any profits from gasoline sales (which are actually quite small) also go to the gas station owners, after Big Oil has already been paid.

But beyond Gingrich’s ridiculous assertion, the Auto Alliance has noted that maintaining proper tire pressure is “more important than you may think” because it saves fuel and reduces costs and greenhouse gases.

Indeed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) — whom Gingrich once praised as one of the “great winners” — agrees. Today he endorsed the thrust of Obama’s idea, saying “you can reduce your fuel costs by more than 15%. And I am talking about simple things, like proper tire pressure, avoiding rapid starts and stops, and keeping your engine tuned.”

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