Sierra magazine | Idling cars are an economic and an environmental disaster

Harming the environment is no idle threat | Idling cars are an economic and an environmental disaster

Sierra magazine, March/April 2009 issue, p. 14

How many times have you sat in line for several minutes at a bank or fast-food drive-through and wondered how much gas you were wasting? Perhaps you even thought of the possible environmental damage the idling cars was causing?

Idling is costly, in several ways: “Every hour you idle, you waste up to 0.7 gallons of gas (depending on your engine type) going nowhere. So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.

“In a given year, U.S. cars burn some 1.4 billion gallons of fuel just idling. Not to mention idling trucks, which waste another 1.5 billion gallons. Collectively, we emit about 58 million tons of carbon dioxide while we’re essentially doing nothing.”

Whether one goes to McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Burger King or another fast-food outlet, it takes on average close to 2 1/2 minutes to get your order and be on your way. McDonald’s consumers alone account for burning more than 7.25 million gallons of gas waiting in line!

The entire fast-food industry? We waste about 50 million gallons of gas!

All of that is bad enough. But we’re spreading our lazy, wastrel habits to the rest of the world which bodes nothing but ill for the future. “…McDonald’s plans to open 25 drive-throughs in China, following KFC’s lead. KFC installed its first drive-through there in 2002 and is working on 100 more. If China and India, which is also jumping aboard the drive-through bandwagon, get up to speed, they can idle away a truly staggering figure: 30 billion gallons of gas. Every year.”

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2 Comments

  1. “So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.”

    I’d be interested to know the impact that starting your car has on the environment. I imagine that during the ignition process a car burns extra oil, uses its spark plugs, alternators and other chemically- and fuel-driven functions and generally is tougher on a car’s machinery (not to even mention the added fuel a car uses when starting) than if it were just idling…

    There’s more to the environment than just our fuel consumption, right?


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