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.... or Improving Gas Mileage and Reducing Air Pollution By Letting Your Engine Idle Less

One of the big advantages hybrid vehicles possess is that their gasoline engines shut off automatically at stop lights, which saves gas and reduces pollution. The engine's "brain" automatically handles the task of turning the engine back on again when it's needed. (If YOUR brain goes off and on automatically, make sure some practical joker isn't using the Advanced Clapper on you.)

If you aren't yet driving a vehicle with the auto-shut-off feature, is it a good idea to manually turn your engine off at every light? picture of rolling hills and greenery with no air pollution Well, maybe not, at least from a safety perspective. However, you may sometimes find yourself sitting in your car or truck in a parking lot or the driveway with the engine idling while you finish a cell phone conversation, catch the end of a favorite song, or do some other minor task. It may be only for a minute or two, but in very few cases does the engine really need to be running to complete the task. (For most tasks that require electric power, you can turn the ignition switch to the "accessory" position after shutting the car off.)

Your personal idling time may be only a minute or two, but if you multiply that by the millions of drivers who may do it several times per week, it adds up to a lot of wasted gas and extra pollution. The US EPA estimates that for every minute a typical auto engine sits idling it emits 6.6 grams of pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, nitrous oxides, and carbon dioxide. If, over a year, two million drivers—which is a small percentage of US drivers—stopped idling their cars unnecessarily for two minutes just once a week, it would reduce these emissions by over 1,500 TONS.

So, the next time you've parked the car but want to finish listening to "Disco Aliens Abducted My Groove," we hope it's not a gas, man! And for those of you that like to warm your car up for five minutes or so in the morning, experts say that this is unnecessary and wastes gas. Engines actually warm up faster via gentle driving than idling, and too much cold idling can lead to fuel-residue deposits on cylinder walls. So, all around, when motoring, it's good to do less idling!

Publish date: 28-OCT-2003


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are usually toxic in varying degrees. They can contaminate our air (and sometimes our water too, until they've had a chance to evaporate); they can contaminate humans by direct contact or by breathing them in; and in some cases VOCs contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer. In addition to car exhaust, VOC pollutants come from things such as dry cleaning fluid (perc); most paints, sealers, and strippers; and some moth repellents, air fresheners, and cleaning agents. No- or low-VOC alternatives are available for all!


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Songs for a Better Planet

I sit at traffic lights and turn my engine off;
Unleaded fuel,
Recycling should be the rule.
Help all those threatened, endangered creatures to survive;
Air, land and sea
Should remain poison-free.
Long may green reign.   more

Song: “Plan It Earth”

Artist: Richard Sinclair

Album: Caravan of Dreams

Category: Progressive Rock



In the 1970s, Richard Sinclair did some amazing work with the progressive rock bands Caravan and Camel. Although this album—Caravan of Dreams—was a product of the 1990s, it's still reflective of the old days while managing to achieve an updated feel. Several of the main players from the 1970s incarnations of Caravan and Camel play on the album, including Andy Ward, Jimmy Hastings, and Dave Sinclair, which helps explain why this is such a strong piece of work. The music is lilting and laid-back, with a wonderful interplay of guitar, flute, bass, and other assorted instruments. The lyrics simultaneously challenge and soothe us. Caravan of Dreams is a treat for your ears and your soul!

Get CD purchase info at

Or check out Sinclair Songs

See more Songs for a Better Planet

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"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing."

— Thomas Jefferson


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