Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Are we serious about saving energy?

Saving energy (and reducing pollution as well) are very much in the news these days. We are advised to buy cars that are fuel-efficient, and even to consider hybrid cars. But most of the advice misses a significant source of fuel consumption – and pollution: idling. Even if you don’t idle your car excessively, what do you do when you go through a drive-through? If you’re like most people you idle the engine while waiting. But an idling engine can use close to a gallon per hour. Drive by a bank or a fast food restaurant. There will usually be several cars waiting, all with engines idling. The main street of the town I live in has 3 banks, two fast food restaurants, a car wash, two drugstores with drive through prescription pickup and a Starbucks with a drive through. If there are 5 cars waiting at each drive through, 45 gallons per hour are being burned just waiting. If we were really serious about saving fuel, we’d ban drive throughs. Alternatively we could restrict them to hybrid vehicles, which would both save fuel and encourage people to buy hybrids. Since that isn’t likely to happen, just remember that if you’re going to idle the engine more than 10 seconds, you save fuel by turning the engine off.

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