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I read it in an e-mail; it must be true! (Yeah, right)

One Writer’s Perspective

There’s no such thing as a free ride, or so the saying goes. But with gas prices fluctuating at near two bucks per gallon, people who put a lot of miles on their vehicles are looking for ways to stem the output of cash at the gas pump.

I recall hearing 30 years ago about how a carburetor had been invented that allowed cars to get 100 miles per gallon. But the conspiracy theorists said Detroit had squashed the invention. The conspiracy to keep this technology from the public continues today, the urban legend says.

But now there is another twist on the miracle carburetor. There are these quarter-sized disks that rely on acoustic technology to greatly increase gas mileage. Here’s an e-mail that I received on the subject: “I am affiliated with a company that makes very inexpensive anti-pollution devices for diesel or gas burning engines. If you are interested please email me back. Oh, the device takes about one minute to install and can increase gas mileage from 20% to 40%. It was invented by a physicist in California.”

According to the Web site for the company, “The (company) has harnessed and used the power of different frequencies to positively affect our health and environment. Through the development of new holographic technology, The (company) has developed products that use frequencies to increase gas mileage while reducing toxic emission, aid in weight loss, reduce energy loss from windows by increasing their radiant barrier, and provide environmental, health, and financial rewards.”

In addition to a disk that can be placed on your gas tank to improve fuel efficiency dramatically, the firm also sells a Watch Your Weight (WYW) disk you can wear under your wristwatch to lose two pounds of weight per week.

Man, where can I buy?!? I can save the environment and pay less for gas while losing two pounds a week! Incredible. And it only costs $139 for the Gas Saver disk and $99 for the WYW disk. We all knew technology could solve these weighty problems if it wasn’t for Detroit trying to stifle all these innovations!

Okay, so you’re not biting? It sounds too good to be true? Though you may have guessed by now that I’m not endorsing these products, someone in Mississippi thinks enough of this technology that they are offering to do a sales presentations on the devices. According to the urban legend Web site, www.snopes.com, versions of the miracle carburetor story have been around since at least 1948. In one of the more recent Internet versions of the story, the car gets 200 miles per gallon. And with the current high gas prices, there are numerous similar stories out there about devices that can provide fantastic gas savings.

Consumers need to be aware that they have more to lose even than just the cost of a gas-saving device that doesn’t work.

Bill Moak, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi, said some of these devices that promise huge gas savings have been singled out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as being bogus. The FTC says the devices are, at best, ineffective at improving gas mileage. At worst, they can damage your car and void your warranty.

“The FTC is aggressive about cracking down on this type of marketing,” Moak said. “The best way to save money on gas is to buy a fuel efficient car, and examine your fuel consumption habits. For instance, if you have a high fuel consumption vehicle that you are using to make short trips around town, perhaps you have another more energy efficient vehicles you could use for around town. Then you could use the other vehicle on longer trips. There are ways to increase fuel efficiency by more conventional means which are perfectly safe. There are certain mainstream types of fuel additives that could give you extra mileage per gallon.”

Some 15 years ago, I watched a demonstration of how much oil additives could reduce wear on internal parts. Reducing friction makes engines last longer and improves fuel efficiency. I have used such additives in my vehicles for the past 15 years. My 1991 Nissan Sentra had 200,000 miles on it when I sold it a few months back, and it wasn’t burning any oil. I never had any major engine repairs on the car and believe that these oil additives are perhaps one of the most undersold products in the country.

Moak said he doesn’t like to put a blanket condemnation over a whole category of products, but his advice here is to steer clear of any claims for products that give unusually high mileage.

“The old adage applies here: ‘If it seems to good to be true, it probably is,’” Moak said. “As price of fuel continues to go up, people are going to be looking at more ways to increase fuel efficiency. Products promising to improve fuel efficiency are one outgrowth of that. If you decide to spend money on these products, and buy it on a Web site, be aware your information might not be secure. Some of these Web sites where people are asked to give credit card numbers are not secure sites.”

Meanwhile, if you really want to save gas on your vehicle, park it. Ride a bike. You can lose weight and reduce gas usage. Guaranteed. And you didn’t have to pay $139 for that advice.

Ocean Springs-based freelance journalist Becky Gillette writes regularly for the Mississippi Business Journal.

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