Geneva MotorShow 2013 – Ferrari LaFerrari rear lights and exhaust pipe CC BY-SA 3.0
Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work
I am struggling with all of the idling I’ve seen of late; people sitting in their cars, engine running, going nowhere. They fumble with phones, talk, text, or just sit waiting, air conditioning blowing, to pick up loved ones.
The problems with this are many: fossil fuel is consumed; it contributes to global warming; and whoever is nearby—dogs, children, babies in strollers, plants—breathe what is coming out of the tailpipe.
According to Wikipedia, “Each year idling uses up several billion gallons of fuel and contributes significantly to the transportation sector’s portion of yearly greenhouse gas emissions.” Still, I see it every day; parents comfy cozy in air-perfected vehicles while impacting the very precious environment our young people are running around in.
First I tried to address the problem directly, myself. Bad idea. In a first attempt, one warm day, I kindly asked of the driver in the car parked next to ours, if she would be so kind as to turn off the engine. She sneered as she tore into a piece of pepperoni pizza from the driver’s seat. She complied, but her sassy gaze made clear she didn’t appreciate my asking. Her daughter turned up several uncomfortable minutes later, chatting cheerily together after soccer practice, with my very own daughter. This attempt at combatting global warming singly turned out to be with the mother of my offspring’s friend and fellow teammate. Not a great way to start a relationship, to say the least. To add insult to injury, she was on her way as was I, to the end of season party—awkward. We subsequently began carpooling to practices. Hopefully she doesn’t think I’m a total dodo.
The second time I timidly approached the open window of a huge SUV, parked but running, right in front of a classroom, the door of the room open wide. I asked if he was aware that his tailpipe was pointing straight at it. He responded countering that the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. He did not turn the key of his car to off. I was told he was cooling down the interior of his auto for his daughter, who shortly thereafter, exited from that very room. My attempt at changing his mind was not effective, and I admit, it only made me feel awful again.
I’ve resigned myself to end my one-on-one advocacy efforts. I can’t change the world all by myself. I realize that now. Besides, my goal with this blog has always been to educate or rather, elucidate, so that others might be swayed to make adjustments on their own, because they understand the consequences of their actions.
There is always legislation. In Sweden köra på tomgång as it’s called, is not permitted in most parts of the country for more than 1 minute. There are signs posted near bridges that open for tall boats, and other places you might find yourself stuck waiting in a car, that remind drivers to give the engine a break. The Swedish law allows you one minute to decide if it makes more sense to shut off the engine and wait silently, without spewing fumes or using a dirty and limited resource.
There doesn’t seem to be anything similar in California. Though school buses are not permitted to idle in front of a school—”it is illegal for school buses to idle their engines in the vicinity of a school” it makes no mention of personal vehicles. Some of the cars around here are nearly as big as a bus, so I think personally, it might be worth expanding that law, at a minimum near schools and parks.
So here is my wish. Next time you pull over to fiddle with your phone—and I applaud all that do—if it is going to take more than a minute, why not consider turning off the engine? It will save gas (money), decrease your carbon footprint, and it is a simple, painless way to reduce emissions. It might be a little hotter inside your car temporarily, (if you live in a warm part of the country) but it’s going to get a lot hotter, fast, if we don’t start reducing those emissions.