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Senator Calls for President to Implement Car Idling Law

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Yesterday, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley wrote a letter to President George Bush asking him to consider taking a stand against car idling in Washington D.C.

"While people across the country are looking for ways to reduce their fuel burden by using less, the federal government doesn’t appear to be taking the same steps to reduce wasteful energy consumption and save taxpayer money," he wrote. "Each and every day, there are likely dozens, if not hundreds of federal government SUVs and sedans idling for hours in Washington alone while waiting for their passengers. Some of the biggest culprits of this practice are vehicles attending to cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries."

Anti-idling advocates in Vermont, where an idling law exists affecting school areas, say that "idling your vehicle for more than just 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine" and that "idling your vehicle for 10 minutes uses as much fuel as it takes to travel 5 miles." California also has an anti-idling law for school buses.

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Grassley knows that others may view this as small issue. "Some might say these cases are a spit in the ocean of our energy problems, but the limousines and SUVs of high-level government leaders are important symbols of leadership and their actions are sending a message that they’re out of touch." His full letter is below.

July 10, 2008 The Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear President Bush:

Hard-working Americans across the country are struggling to cope with the rising costs for energy. With crude oil at over $135 a barrel and gasoline averaging over $4.00 a gallon, Americans are spending ever more of their family budgets on transportation costs. In my travels across the state of Iowa, I've heard from farmers, small businesses, truck drivers and families who are desperately in need of help.

Because of the increased cost for fuel, American's are forced to take measures to reduce their consumption, either by driving less, combining errands, car pooling, or driving a more fuel efficient vehicle. These measures don't eliminate the burden of high gas prices, but they're small steps that can be taken to increase efficiency and reduce consumption. I know you'll agree that the federal government should be leading in this area, not lagging.

Each and every day, there are likely dozens, if not hundreds of federal government SUVs and sedans idling for hours in Washington alone while waiting for their passengers. Some of the biggest culprits of this practice are vehicles attending to cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries. I understand that in some cases the idling may be necessary. But, I would imagine that in an overwhelming majority of the situations there is no reason for a car or SUV to remain idling for hours on end. Surely there are simple and painless steps the federal government could take to do its part to reduce energy use, including eliminating this wasteful behavior.

Some might say these cases are a spit in the ocean of our energy problems, but the limousines and SUVs of high-level government leaders are important symbols of leadership and their actions are sending a message that they're out of touch. There are likely thousands of situations such as this where fuel is being wasted by federal employees who have never been instructed to use common sense to reduce fuel use in their daily job duties.

I hope you'll see fit to challenge the federal bureaucracy to look for ways to eliminate blatantly wasteful behavior that is costing the American taxpayer and also contributing to the high cost of fuel at the pump. I look forward to hearing the actions you intend to take to ensure the efficient use of fuel by federal government employees and vehicles. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator

Photo of a sign in New York City by miss rogue via Flickr