How you live makes a difference.
Let’s start with your vehicle. If you’re driving an SUV, it burns one-half to two-thirds more fuel than a regular car. As for cars, newer models can vary considerably on environmental and energy efficiency, so compare both fuel efficiency and emission controls before buying or leasing.
Technology can only help so much, though. We need to reduce the number of vehicles and the time they spend on the road. One way is to hike the price of gas. As the David Suzuki Foundation points out, in Europe, fuel costs two to three times more than it does here, and European consumption is one-third less.
This is also an urban planning issue, since the growth of suburbs has extended commuting times. So we need to halt sprawl and encourage people to live downtown or close to where they work. This means greater density, with more condo high-rises along subway and bus routes. To get people out of cars, you also need better public transit, as well as more bike lanes. Businesses need to be encouraged to provide secure bicycle racks, plus showering areas.
But in the shorter term, what can you do this summer?
- Carpool, use public transportation, walk or bike (if it’s not a smoggy day). One car commuter uses as much energy as a transit rider uses in 10 years. Viewed another way, if you take public transit instead of a vehicle for a year, you can save nearly a tonne of pollutants, including carbon dioxide.
- Avoid idling. Ontario stats show 3 per cent of fuel is wasted by idling.
- Tune up your car. If we all did it on a regular basis, we could reduce Nitrogen oxides by 12 per cent and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a key part of smog, by 30 per cent.
- Keep tires properly inflated. Each 5 per cent of under inflation in a tire translates into a 1 per cent increase in fuel consumption.
- Fill your gas tank in the evening, as this a major source of VOCs. If they combine with other gases in the sun, they create smog.
- Consider fuel efficiency when you buy a car. See www.fueleconomy.gov to check gas consumption and emissions.
- Buy a hybrid. Enjoy the sound of silence as you push the button that starts the electric-powered motor. You might qualify for Ottawa’s new rebate for hybrids – up to $2,000. They’re expensive, but what’s the price for breathable air?
- Retire the energy-guzzling clunker. A program called Car Heaven offers a free car tow and eco-friendly recycling.
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