In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

The anti-idling program

Another example of a misguided environmental message is the “anti-idling” program by the Cape Breton credit unions and the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP). They’re trying to get people to turn off their cars while stopped. The credit unions have installed signage at their drive through locations to encourage people to turn off their cars while using the drive through ATM.

Yea, I get the whole thing about small changes adding up, but why do we aim so low? How long are you at the ATM typically? A minute? I can’t imagine a simple deposit or withdrawal taking any longer. So instead of leaving your car on, you turn it off. You save a minute’s worth of fuel. This is a minute at idle, mind you, not a minute at 100km/h.

The only fuel consumption at idle figure I could find is courtesy of the Alberta government. They claim an hour of idling consumes 1.4 litres of fuel. They fail to mention the type of vehicle the figure applies to, but let’s go with it anyway. An hourly consumption of 1.4 litres is 0.023 litres per minute, or slightly more than 1.5 tablespoons of gasoline. At $1.04 per litre, this volume costs 2.5¢. To make it easy, assume you use the drive though ATM sixty times a year. If you shut off your car instead of idling, enjoy the satisfaction of saving 1.4 litres of gasoline per year. Yep, the world will certainly be saved with decisive actions like this.

In trying to find a fuel consumption figure for idling vehicles, I came across lists of things to do to save fuel. More than a few suggested that not idling would increase your fuel economy by all sorts of amounts, ranging from 4% to 10%. I figure I use roughly 20 litres of fuel in a week, at the very most. Idling for ten minutes every week would use 0.23 litres, or 1.15% of the 20 litres, and I can tell you I’m not idling for anywhere near this long in a given week. You could save more by checking your tire pressure twice a month.

Perhaps a better message would be to remove the temptation of the ATM altogether. Get your ass out of the car and walk into the credit union. The fitness people would be all over this, too!

But don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to savings. I avoid idling when waiting in a parking lot or other similar situations, but I’m very unlikely to turn off the engine at the drive through or a red light. The danger I see is the media suggesting a menu of things to choose from, most producing a negligible savings. The average Joe might adopt a few and figure they’re doing more than their part. What’s next? Compost your nail-clippings? Why not get people used to the idea of identifying waste and taking steps to avoid it. If every single wasteful thing we do must be pointed out to us, we’re already doomed. I hate to pull out such an old saw, but the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching them to fish fits very well here.

Let’s get back to the anti-idling campaign. Scott Gillard, with ACAP Cape Breton, says “We have volunteers that we call idle busters and they’re going to be hitting the streets throughout the municipality and they’re going to be approaching people and encouraging them to become smart drivers.” First off, not idling at the drive through isn’t going to make you a smart driver. Nice sound bite though, Scott. Second, if some nut-job calling himself an ‘idle buster’ comes up to me (while I’m in my car, presumably) and starts to blow sunshine out his ass saying I can save the environment by not idling, I’m going to tell him to fuck off.

And the best part of the story:

But of the 10 drivers that CBC News witnessed in the drive-thru lineup at the Sydney River credit union, no one turned off their cars.

I guess it’s time to unleash the idle busters!

So do I have any ideas to go along with all this bitching. You bet I do! Tune in next time for a suggestion of how you can save far more gasoline with a minimum effort. I’m getting 20% more distance out of a tank.






  1. Jennifer

    RE: the whole “no idling” thing. How much gas is being used every time I have to re-start my car? How much wear and tear am I inflicting on my engine by doing this? If I turned my car off every time I idled for more than 30 seconds, I’d probably need to buy a new car before I’d finished paying for the one I already have!

  2. Jonathan

    Not idling is more about trying to reduce needless pollution. It’s not about trying to save money. Unfortunately it’s come to that because money, not concern for the environment, is what people respond to best. Typically the anti-idling people are miffed more at the idling outside timmies for eight minutes while the passenger goes in all the while the air conditioning is on with the windows open than at the waiting 48 seconds for a traffic light. As for wear and tear, if everyone began turning off as a rule, I highly doubt that there would be Starter Motor Changers on every corner like the lube guys. FYI 10 seconds of idle time = 1 car start. info doesn’t say if that’s warm engine or cold engine.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén