Your driving habits can help reduce pollution

Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Click here for a Good Dirt Radio 5-minute eco-spot on mileage.

It’s no secret that motor vehicles cause major amounts of air pollution. NASA’s Goddard Institute states that the combined US transport sector burns about 138 billion gallons of oil into our finite air space each year and is one of the world’s biggest sources of pollution. It’s easy to forget, but there is a direct connection between driving and the changing climate. We drive about 3 trillion miles each year emitting over 350 million metric tons of CO2…enough carbon to fill a coal trail 55,000 miles long—long enough to encircle the Earth twice. Join us to learn about simple changes in driving habits that help reduce engine pollution and save money.

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Read transcript below.

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive change… taking root.

It’s no secret that motor vehicles cause major amounts of air pollution. NASA’s Goddard Institute states that the combined US transport sector burns about 138 billion gallons of oil into our finite air space… each year… and is one of the world’s biggest sources of pollution.

It’s easy to forget  but there is a direct connection between driving and the changing climate.  We drive about 3 trillion miles each year emitting over 350 million metric tons of CO2.  That’s enough carbon to fill a coal train 55,000 miles long—long enough to encircle the Earth twice.  We can all make simple changes in driving habits that help reduce engine pollution and save money.

We spoke with Russ Ulrich, Coordinator for Air Quality & Traffic Safety in Baltimore.  With 30 years in the business of clean air, he says driver education is key and that vehicle pollution is also connected to America’s health crisis.

Ullrich:  Metropolitan areas throughout the country have an air pollution problem. Especially during the summer months, we can get dangerously high levels of ground level ozone and it can create problems for even healthy folks.  You go outside, you breath in the air, you can feel it burn your lungs.  It’s very bad for kids because their lungs are actually developing.  It’s bad for older folks and it’s bad for anyone who has a chronic health condition.

The DOE estimates Americans waste 3.5 billion gallons of fuel each year just from improper tire pressure.  Think about that … when’s the last time YOU checked? Each gallon burns over 5 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere and with around 250 million vehicles and an average of only 1.5 passengers on board, there is room for change.

Ullrich:  Because motor vehicles are a significant source of emissions that fowl our air, we go out and we remind people about the relationship between driving and air quality.  Most people understand that relationship. However, they tend to feel that it’s always someone else’s motor vehicle which is creating problems.  Personal transportation choices affect the health of all of us.  It may not sound like one person who joins a carpool or rides transit can make a difference, but if more and more people join together, there is a cumulative effect.  

Pam Kiely is Program Director for the non-profit Environment Colorado.  She educates the public and works in the state legislature to build a stronger, cleaner energy economy.  Kiely offers a few positive solutions.

Kiely:   As you are heading out on the road, cut your oil consumption down, save some money, and also make sure that the air is a little bit cleaner.  First, keeping up your vehicle maintenance is an incredible way to actually improve the efficiency of your engine.  Also be efficient with your shopping and other travel.  When you can walk, walk.  When you have to drive, plan ahead.  Try to hit multiple stores in one trip.  Also drive efficiently.  Driving at a steady, reasonable pace, somewhere around the speed limit, can actually reduce your fuel use by as much as 15%.  Make sure you get rid of that unnecessary weight in your car.  For every 100 lbs. of extra weight that you’ve got in your car, your fuel efficiency drops by 1%.  One great option is to actually consider telecommuting as an alternative to the daily drive to and from work. 

Deputy Editor of Solar Today Magazine, published in Boulder, CO, Seth Masia has broad knowledge and experience in energy technologies. He offers other common sense ways to save fuel, pollution and money.

Masia:   The traditional way to save gas includes carpooling and running fewer errands, getting more done in a single outing.  It is important to keep the tires properly inflated.  A loss of 5% in tire pressure costs 7 or 8% in gas mileage.  But, what’s more important, is to keep the rev’s down, to shift at a much lower rpm – as long as traffic permits you to do that, you can save 10% on your mileage.

Keily:  I think the most important thing that we can do is communicate to our political leaders at the local level, at the regional level, at the state level, at the national level, that you want real transportation alternatives to get America off oil.

There are many simple things any driver can do to save money and help offset his or her eco-footprint… right now.  For more ideas, please visit us at gooddirtradio.org.

When enough people learn about their options and take action, big changes can happen.  We encourage you to find issues you care about and get involved.

I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham.  Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.