Op-Ed…. Don’t Stand Idle

By Amy Barone
November 9, 2007

When I read Lee Seham’s “Op-Ed: Cool and Cowardly - A Conservationist’s Confessions,” (October 19), I felt his anger and outrage at the indifference and ignorance that too many of us exhibit when we idle our cars. Too many of us put our own preference for the comfort of air conditioning or heat over the earth’s ecological health and well-being. His description of fuming but avoiding a confrontation with offending drivers reminded me of a similar experience I had this past August.

I was on the Brewster flats in Cape Cod with my children, but found myself unable to enjoy the experience when a SUV sat idling its engine next to my ear in the small lot next to the beach. My children were riding the tide out along Payne’s Creek just steps away from me. I was boiling, not from the heat of the sun, but with rage at this selfish person who was putting himself before the rest of us and the world. On a much more basic level, I was wondering what the heck was he doing vacationing on the Cape! He obviously preferred controlled environments to this beautiful place that provides its own built in air conditioning. If he had just taken a moment to turn off his engine and roll down his windows, he would have felt the breeze that Mother Nature provides.

Cowardly conservationists could find courage acting in concert

My anger doubled when I realized I didn’t have the courage to march over to him and pleasantly ask him to do us and his wallet a favor, and turn off his car. I grumbled incessantly to my sister-in-law, who encouraged me to ignore it and enjoy myself. I made excuses to go to my van so I could glare at him in hopes of making eye contact. I imagined making up flyers on the consequences of idling to keep in my car to hand out at times like these.

I did nothing but sit on my anger until I read Mr. Seham’s Op-Ed piece and said to myself, “Thank God I am not alone!” Since then I have decided to get that flyer I daydreamed about on the Cape made. I researched the issue of idling cars and found information worth sharing. Hopefully if we all learn from this and spread the information we can make a difference, no matter how small that difference is!

Idling myths vs. reality

The Consumer Energy Center, run by the California Energy Commission, identifies three important myths about idling car engines.

Myth #1: The engine should be warmed up before driving.

REALITY
: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle. With today’s modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.

Myth #2: Idling is good for your engine.

REALITY
: Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems. Fuel is only partially combusted when idling, because the engine is not operating at is peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.

Myth #3: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine and uses more gas than if you leave it running.

REALITY: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like the battery and the starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will likely be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling. The bottom line is that more than ten seconds off idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

Let’s NOT be idle, New Castle, and turn off our engines together.

For more information, please see consumerenergycenter.org


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