Environmental exclusive: Don’t idle your car

In the U.S., it is common to defrost windows by allowing a car to sit idly. However, this is against German law. If violated, a fine may be issued.

Idling occurs when a vehicle runs for extended periods without motion. To be good U.S. Air Force ambassadors and take care of the environment, service members, civilians and families should refrain from starting vehicles until ready to depart. German citizens use ice scrapers, snow brushes, de-icing spray, or cover their windshields at night.

“An idling vehicle releases harmful chemicals, gases and pollution into the air, contributing to ozone, regional haze, and global climate changes,” said Anna Lessire, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental chief. “Every gallon of gas burned produces more than 20 pounds of greenhouse gases.”

According to paragraph five of the Rheinland-Pfalz State Emissions Law, individuals must refrain from producing all avoidable noise and air pollution.

“It’s prohibited by German law to let your car run to defrost your windows,” Lessire stated. “The applicable law is called the Federal Emission Control Act, which is the equivalent to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act. The purpose of these laws is to avoid any unnecessary emission of fumes and noise to the environment. These apply on and off base.”

A frequent situation that involves prohibited vehicle idling occurs when parents bring children to a bus stop in the mornings. An automobile is not permitted to idle while waiting for a bus.

“In most cases, the fine for idling is 80 euros,” Lessire specified. “However, if the offense does not fall within the scope of the road traffic regulations, but rather under the State Emission Control Act, it may result in a significantly higher fine, as high as 50,000 euros.”

Idling has other disadvantages as well. Over time, it can damage vehicles, which may result in additional expenses. Idling also wastes gas; letting a car idle for two minutes is equivalent to driving a mile.

“For every 10 minutes an engine is off, one pound of carbon dioxide is prevented from being released,” Lessire explained. “Carbon dioxide is the primary contributor to global warming, plus, you will save fuel, therefore, some extra money.”

The auto industry has successfully improved engine technology over the years, which has resulted in improving overall vehicle efficiency.

“Vehicle engines have technologically advanced to the point where they do not need time to warm up, even in winter months,” Lessire advised. “A few seconds after starting the engine, the vehicle is safe to drive and warms up twice as fast while in motion.”