Where I live in Northern Virginia, we have some of the worst air quality in the United States. Our population has swelled over the past decade, and brought with it more cars and more driving as the suburbs lead out to sprawl. As Tim Kaine wages a fight with out-of-control developers, and tries to ease traffic concerns on our roads, there are things we can do ourselves to help clean our air - and it doesn't involve $100 million transportation projects, widening roads, or building new metro stations.
One solution is to educate each other about vehicle idling
, a serious problem that is destroying our cars and wasting millions of gallons of gasoline every year.
Vehicle idling is rather prevalent in Northern Virginia. In fact, you see it every day. Someone reading in their car, typing on their Blackberry, or talking on their cell phone, all while their engine is running at full blast. The fact is that today's modern engines need only 30 seconds to warm up, even in temperatures just below freezing. However, many people leave their engines running when temperatures are much higher and they are making a big mistake in the process.
For one thing, idling damages the engine by causing incomplete combustion. This causes fuel residues to be left over that contaminate engine oil and damage engine parts like spark plugs, while causing a decrease in overall fuel efficiency. Excessive idling also causes water to condense in the vehicle exhaust system, leading to corrosion that will require more frequent trips to the mechanic.
People forget that an idling car gets 0 miles to the gallon, and with gas prices as high as they are, we cannot afford to waste so much fuel. Conversely, studies have shown that frequent starting and restarting of automobile engines cost drivers about $10 a year in engine damage. You'll lose that much money simply through the wasted gas.
Most troubling is that an idling car creates tremendous pollution and emission of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Every gallon of gas that is used creates 19 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions along with emissions of pollutants like Nitrous Oxide (NOx) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) along with many other toxic chemicals that endanger our lives and ruin our air quality.
It is against the law to idle an automobile for more than 3 to 5 minutes in several U.S. states and cities, including the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland. However, there is no law against the idling of personal automobiles in Virginia, although there should be.
The good news is that what you see today is the starting point. We can start educating people everywhere on the facts about idling, and get them to think twice next time they leave the car running. Tell everybody you can about the dangers of idling. Let them know that it hurts their car, wastes fuel and hurts our local air quality. The air in Northern Virginia will not clean up by itself; it takes all of us to make an effort. Let's spread the word!
This article is cross-posted on Raising Kaine