Automobiles: Saving Gas and Our Air

"I don't believe that guy! Just because he drives a small car he figures he knows everything about the environment and cars. George said that because it was larger, my car automatically polluted more than his! Talk about not knowing your facts!" Usually John was pretty easy going. Mary couldn't remember the last time her husband was this wound up. "Sure size and weight are important, but there are other things to consider, too."

John had some magazines and library books scattered around his easy chair. "Here, look at this. It says that keeping your tires inflated helps the environment in two ways. First, you use less gas. But you also save on tire wear, so fewer tires are discarded. I'll bet George hasn't checked his tires in six months!"

Mary was a lot like John. Both shared an inquisitive mind. So it wasn't long before she, too, was pouring over magazine articles. "Hon, here's something that I bet George doesn't know. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel mileage by as much as 30%. That could turn a small car into a gas guzzler pretty quick!"

John was reading some material from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. "This is interesting. Vehicle travel is doubling every twenty years. They suggest that you try to plan your trips so that you drive less. Call ahead to make sure that the store has what you want can save time and gas. Another method is to study your driving patterns to see where you go. If possible, combine trips or carpool."

Although she didn't look up, Mary was listening. "We do that. When was the last time I asked you to bring home a loaf of bread on the way home from work? Long time, right? I use my weekly meal planning to avoid extra trips to the store. Never thought of it as a way to stop air pollution!"

Later in the same article John found something else that interested him. "Old Lead Foot's gonna love this! You reduce your gas mileage by 15% when you increase your speed from 55 to 65 mph. George's got two tickets this year already."

Mary couldn't help but laugh at that one. She had only met George once or twice at company events, but she remembered him telling a story about how good he was at navigating heavy traffic. "John, here's some stuff on a question I've always had. When you're standing in line should you turn off your engine? According to the State of California you should if you're going to be there for more than one minute. In fact, they recommend that for many drive through lines you'd be better off parking and going inside. They estimate that about four million gallons of gasoline are burned every day while cars just idle."

"Wow! Now I've got another reason to hate rush hour." Never one to wait around, John had begun leaving early for work to avoid traffic. "Here's another one George should know about. He's got that air conditioner on in the car constantly. This article says that makes your engine work harder and use more gas."

Mary, too, was reading about auto air conditioners. "Speaking of a/c, doesn't yours need some work? This says that nearly one third of the CFC's released come from car air conditioners. And a lot of that is from careless repairmen."

"Don't worry, Sweetheart. That's one job that I won't do myself. In fact, when I do my own work I always make a point of recycling used oil and anti-freeze. I can't believe people who just throw it out or pour it out. Sooner or later that all ends up in our water supply. I just take it down to the store where I buy my oil and filters and they take care of it for me."

"Before you get too smug, Mr. Environment, you might want to read this. Remember that toolbox you were going to take out of your trunk a year ago? Dragging that stuff around is almost like driving a bigger, heavier car. It's just a way of wasting gas that you never even notice."

"OK, you got me there. I'll take the stuff out tonight. Just don't tell George about that. If you wanted to put a toolbox in that little sports car of his you wouldn't have room for a passenger!" John started to put all the books and magazine articles away.

"Hey, I'm not finished yet!" Mary looked like she was getting very comfortable. And she positively enjoyed giving John a hard time. "I just want to make sure we're saving our budget and the environment. By the way, don't you still keep your bowling ball in the car?" John didn't answer. He already had his car keys in hand and was heading out the door to put his car on an instant weight loss diet.