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Idle thoughts
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At the Jesup library last week I participated in a discussion about the effects of rising oil costs. An audience of 35 people tackled the question: What are you doing, if anything, to scale back your petroleum usage?

"We come to town a lot less," said Pat Nix. "Used to, we’d run in for anything we needed. Now we plan ahead." She made a motion as if writing a list.

"We bought a hybrid," said Phyllis Bowen.

Carole Nelson said that when she embarks on a (more-infrequent) road trip, she sets her cruise control at 55. That way, she is not tempted to speed. Even on interstates, she drives 55 m.p.h.

Another person, a self-professed leadfoot, is easier on the acceleration.

My husband confessed that he has been shutting off the engine at long traffic lights (not recommended!), and that he has been coasting to stops. Our motto, only half a joke, has been: "If you’re using your brake, you’re throwing money out the window." We actually pushed the car a few yards last week when we didn’t quite judge our momentum and rolled to a stop shy of our driveway.

I am reminded of a bookseller friend who had the idea of revising driver manuals. "We could save a lot of gasoline," she said, "if we all learned to drive better. We should be teaching first-time drivers how to save gas."

One driving tip that will save plenty is not idling.

For every two minutes that a car idles, I’ve read, it uses an equivalent of fuel required to travel about one mile. Idling gets zero miles per gallon.

Most people believe that a car needs to be warmed up before being driven, but research says that most gasoline-powered cars built after 1990 are designed to need only 30 seconds of warm-up time, and that this should happen while driving -- drive slowly and smoothly for the first few miles of any trip.

Excessive idling can damage engine components, since fuel is only partially combusted during idling. (The engine is not running at peak temperature.) This leads to an accumulation of fuel residues inside the cylinders.

At what point should you shut off the engine? The magic number is 10. Idling more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting.

The Jesup audience was full of money-saving ideas that also reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. Even more heartening is that the evening proves that we are changing the dialogue in this country, from how to consume to how not to consume. That’s big.


When author and activist Janisse Ray idles this summer, it is with a book in hand! She lives on a farm near Baxley.




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