Did you know that emissions from transportation contribute up to half of the air pollution in some parts of Texas? These emissions, combined with point and area sources of emissions, contribute to the region’s non-attainment status. Areas including Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Beaumont/Port Arthur, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Tyler, and Victoria all have air quality issues that pose risks to public health.
To help mitigate emissions from the transportation sector, a number of state and regional agencies have taken part in developing initiatives to cut this pollution. One such initiative is the no-idling resolution which recently passed by the Houston Galveston Area Council (HGAC), a resolution similar to one that has been adopted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). The resolution states that a vehicle should not idle more than 5 minutes. To encourage Houston area businesses, churches, and hospitals to participate, HGAC is offering free “no-idling” signs.
The resolutions adopted by HGAC and NCTCOG were necessary to remind individuals that reducing idling from all vehicles, including those in the light duty sector, are important. The Vehicle Idling Restrictions rule from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has already placed idling limits on gasoline and diesel-powered engines of heavy-duty motor vehicles to no more than five minutes. On July 20, 2011, TCEQ updated the Motor Vehicle Idling Limitations, which allowed for year round enforcement of the rule. TCEQ has also administered an Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants (ERIG) Program and the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) that help offset costs for vehicle replacement or retrofitting for heavy-duty vehicles and provide new financial incentives with the overall goal to reduce emissions.
Another program adopted by the state of Texas is Drive Clean Across Texas, a campaign that started in 2001, which focuses on five steps to reduce the harmful emissions that contribute to air pollution, cut fuel use and increase vehicle efficiency:
- Maintain Your Vehicle
- Drive a Cleaner Vehicle
- Drive the Speed Limit
- Drive Less
- Avoid Idling
Maintenance of your vehicle includes following the manufacturers’ maintenance guide and ensuring regular oil and oil filter changes. Keeping a car or truck tuned can limit emissions and improve gas mileage up to four percent. It’s important to check tires for proper air pressure every month, which can improve gas mileage up to three percent. This not only helps improve the efficiency of an engine, but also extends the life of a car and can increase resale value.
Consider buying a hybrid or electric car for a low-emission, high-efficiency alternative.
Staying within the speed limit will burn less fuel and emit less harmful emissions. Gradually accelerate and decelerate to improve gas efficiency. Not only will this save gas, but it will also ensure safety.
Driving less can be accomplished by carpooling, biking, walking or using public transportation, if possible. Driving in traffic uses more gas and puts more harmful pollutants into the air. When an individual chooses to drive less, he or she avoids congestion, saves gas and is not contributing to pollution.
To avoid idling, one should park and go into restaurants instead of using the drive thru or turn off the car if he or she will be at a standstill for over a minute while in line. Never “warm up” an engine, as modern vehicle engines do not require it.
TXDoT’s Drive Clean Across Texas campaign, along with the idling policies enacted by TCEQ, HGAC, and NCTCOG are all aimed at reducing air pollution and improving air quality for Texans. The amount of money and time dedicated to these policies and incentive programs are a testimony to how seemingly simple behaviors can contribute a great deal in offsetting carbon and other pollutants in Texas. As an added benefit, following the guidelines also helps drivers save money at the pump, all while ensuring air quality standards for their communities.