AUDIO (9:55) | Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group | Tim Hortons Greenwash

CBC AUDIO.

In case you missed it the first time.

We are sending this out as there are many new councillors across the country that have recently taken on this issue.

This strategy of “manufacturing scientific uncertainty” comes directly from the industry’s denialism playbook. The industry invests big money for public relations campaign to raise doubts about the increasingly definitive scientific evidence. They realize that if you could argue about the science, then you can stop municipalities from trying to address the problem. If the new ‘science’ which is bought and paid by industry doesn’t work, they fall back on the argument of ‘choice’ – whatever the risk to society, it the citizens right to do so. This is just another example of industry’s scientific consultants who specialize in product defense. Not unlike tobacco, oil and climate change. Corporate spin experts have recognized that manufacturing doubt works and if they do it well they can stop government legislation, or at least slow them down for years. This is a growing trend that disingenuously demands proof over precaution in the realm of public health.

AUDIO: Reporter Giacomo Panico discusses the details on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning

http://cbc.ca/ottawa/media/audio/ottawamorning/20080811drive.ram

Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group

Last Updated: Monday, August 11, 2008 | 11:35 AM ET

CBC News

A federal government website that highlights the negative health and environmental effects of idling your engine has revamped its message after meeting with a group representing drive-thru restaurants.

‘It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling.’— Ottawa Coun. Clive Doucet

The “Idle-Free Zone,” a website managed by Natural Resources Canada’s office of energy efficiency, was removed for review following a meeting with the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. A revised version was posted five months later, on July 22, that:

  • Advises drivers to shut off their engines after 60 seconds of idling; the previous version advocated turning engines off after 10 seconds.
  • Does not refer to 5,000 premature deaths annually in Canada linked to air pollution, as the previous version did, and no longer includes posters bearing images such as a girl choking and slogans such as “Idling is killing our environment.”

The website says its purpose is to help communities and environmental groups stop engine idling.

Carol Buckley, director general of the office of energy efficiency, confirmed that the restaurant association met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn on Feb. 7.

According to Lunn’s spokeswoman, Louise Girouard, no one from the office of energy efficiency attended the meeting. Girouard confirmed that an e-mail was sent from Lunn’s office on Feb. 8 asking the site to be taken down.

Buckley said the site was temporarily removed because the office didn’t want to leave any misleading information online while it was being revised.

“We wanted to make sure that the website reflected all of the latest data and information that was available about this topic,” she said, adding that in the end the changes were “not really significant.”

The change to the recommended amount of idling time was made because of access to new research taking into account the wear and tear on a car’s battery and starter caused by shutting off and restarting the engine, she said. Previously, the site said such wear and tear was minimal.

The new site now also refers readers to Health Canada instead of detailing the health impacts of idling because Natural Resources felt that wasn’t really their jurisdiction and they wanted to focus on the effects on climate change, Buckley added.

“I think the emphasis in the earlier text was a little strong. Today’s vehicles are more efficient when it comes to smog emissions,” she said.

Site ‘lacks balance’: restaurant group

Joyce Reynolds, executive vice-president for government affairs for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the group corresponded with a number of government officials at various levels about the website, which was used by many municipalities to develop their own anti-idling bylaws.

‘What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling.’— Joyce Reynolds, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association

“Our concern is that municipal decision-making must be based on facts and scientific evidence,” she said. “And we were seeing some municipalities that were focusing on the health impacts of idling based on information that was incorrect and misleading.”

The association argues Natural Resources Canada didn’t put enough weight on pollution caused by a puff of contaminants produced when an engine is restarted after being shut down.

Reynolds said some of that misleading information on the “Idle-Free Zone” site has now been corrected, but the site still “lacks balance.”

In particular, she said, it doesn’t deal with other driving behaviours that cause greenhouse gas and pollution emissions, such as excessive speeding, rapid acceleration and poor vehicle maintenance.

“What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling,” Reynolds said.

With regards to idling, the changes to the site will have an impact on municipalities, Ottawa city Coun. Clive Doucet said.

“It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling. It’s not good news for cities anywhere,” said Doucet, who pushed hard for an anti-idling bylaw in Ottawa.

A bylaw banning idling for more than three minutes in Ottawa went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

With the aim of reducing pollution from idling cars, a number of cities in Canada — including London, Ont., North Vancouver and Sarnia, Ont. — are thinking about making it tougher for restaurants to build new drive-thrus.

Gordon Taylor, an engineering consultant who has done air-quality studies for Natural Resources Canada, suggested that the restaurant association could be taking another approach to deal with criticism of drive-thrus.

“I think the restaurant association should have some kind of a pro-active campaign to say, ‘Hey, if there’s a big long lineup, consider walking in the door.’ “

http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2008/08/11/ot-drivethru-080811.html

It’s still not okay to idle | Published August 25, 2008 in the NB Telegraph Journal

It’s still not okay to idle

By Carl Duivenvoorden

Published August 25, 2008 in the NB Telegraph Journal

Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) is our federal government’s official body for helping Canadians save energy and money. Its website, http://www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca, has a wealth of information about everything from buying better home appliances to designing better commercial buildings.

If you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you may have noticed that longstanding guidelines for idling reduction were modified recently. But there’s something just a bit suspicious about the changes.

Old rules and new rules

For years, the OEE’s idling reduction programs have been based on the ten second rule. Its message is simple: it’s better to turn a car or light truck engine off than to let it idle for more than 10 seconds.

It’s a general guideline, so as with any such rule there are exceptions. For example, it’s not recommended that engines be shut off at traffic stoplights – they don’t always start back up when you want them to, and that can create a traffic mess. As well, it doesn’t always make sense in cold winter conditions. But overall, the ten second rule has been a great guideline for Canadians, helping us save money, fuel and the environment.

But back in February, the ten second rule suddenly disappeared from OEE’s website. In its place was a message indicating that an update was coming soon.

Six months later, the long-awaited update has finally arrived, and now it seems that it’s okay to idle longer. Has the science behind the recommendation changed – or is something else at work? A recent CBC news story suggests there’s a bit more behind our federal government’s change of heart.

Real science or science of convenience?

You see, excessive idling is starting to become socially frowned upon. It’s about time, of course – Canadians waste literally millions of liters of fuel every day through unnecessary idling. If we are truly ready to believe that the environment is worth taking care of, minimizing our idling is one of the easiest things we can do.

Much of our preventable idling takes place in drive-throughs, so fast food restaurants and coffee shops are becoming concerned that a backlash against idling might put a damper on a part of their business that clearly makes mountains of cash. If that CBC story is correct, they have been very busy behind the scenes, working to sanitize the image of their drive-throughs. That sanitization campaign has included sponsoring a study that concludes that going through the coffee shop drive-through causes no more pollution than parking. It has included publicizing those results using questionable comparisons, such as comparing chain saws (whose 2-stroke engines pollute much more by design) to vehicles in drive-throughs. And it has included pulling political strings to help the study’s conclusions become part of the government’s new recommendations.

Could the story be true? Well, here are a few indisputable facts. RWDI Air, an Ontario engineering firm, recently conducted a study on behalf of Tim Horton’s that seems to vindicate drive-throughs. The study is being widely used to defend them, including by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), whose membership includes most drive-through operators in Canada.

Then last February, the CRFA met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who oversees the OEE – and the ten second rule disappeared from OEE’s website within 24 hours.

I hope the CBC story is wrong, of course, and that this is all just coincidence. Just like any other Canadian, I want to believe that my government bases its recommendations to Canadians on sound science exclusively. Just imagine if Health Canada took its directives from the pharmaceutical industry. But I have to admit I’m concerned that in this case real science may have been trumped by other interests.

In the meantime, since the ten second rule remains valid in other countries, I think it’s too early to give up on it here.If you believe our environment is worth preserving, it’s still a good idea to minimize idling and avoid drive-throughs.

Carl Duivenvoorden (www.changeyourcorner.com) is a speaker, writer and green consultant living in Upper Kingsclear. His column runs every other Monday.

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