Many Texans say air quality is getting worse, but with the exception of carpooling, they are less aware of key actions they can take to reduce vehicle emissions.
Those are some of the findings of a 2012 independent study conducted for the Texas Department of Transportation to evaluate the annual Drive Clean Across Texas campaign. TxDOT has worked with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to continue to encourage Texans to reduce their vehicle emissions and save gasoline money since 2001.
Texas is a state with more than 20 million registered vehicles, and in some areas of the state, emissions from cars and trucks result in half of the air pollution, the campaign states on its website.
Margo Richards, director of TxDOT’s travel information division, wrote in a statement that harmful, ground-level ozone is formed when chemicals found in vehicle exhaust and other sources combine with sunlight and heat. And people need to take certain steps to help such as checking tire pressures, getting vehicles tuned up when needed to reduce tailpipe emissions and to consider getting a hybrid or electric car.
If Texans maintain the correct pressure in their vehicles’ tires, it can save about $85 a year in gas, according to campaign materials. Drive Clean Across Texas also suggests that driving a car in need of maintenance can add $120 to annual gas spending.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments through Air North Texas has been a partner of the statewide campaign for the past 12 years.
Mindy Mize, a program manager with the council of governments, said air quality education in North Texas has increased.
Through Air North Texas, a regional clean air partnership, residents are provided with more resources, speeches and community events that inform the public.
“Over the summer months, we try to get out the information about Action Day [held each June] and information on how people can telecommute, carpool, take a train — things that will help improve air quality,” she said.
The public awareness campaign is mostly conducted during “air pollution season” from March 1 through Oct. 31, Mize said.
Each year, Texas fails to meet federal air quality standards, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The push to inform the public also rewards local car dealerships.
Carl Anderson with Bill Utter Ford said customers inquire about buying gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
“Most of it is driven by the price of gas,” he said.
Anderson said Denton has been considered a “green” city for a long time. When Ford Motor Co. first introduced its hybrid vehicles, Denton was one of the places designated to receive them, he said.
As part of the Drive Clean Across Texas campaign, participants can register to win a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid sponsored by the Dallas Cowboys. The winner also will receive two tickets to a 2013 Cowboys home game. Participants can register online at www.drivecleanacrosstexas.org. The deadline for entry is Sept. 15. The winner will be announced Oct. 6.
Clean air tips
The Drive Clean Across Texas campaign offers several tips to help clean the air.
Keep vehicle maintained properly.
Your owner’s manual will tell you how often you should change your oil and air filters, service your air conditioner and get regular engine checkups. You’ll not only be doing the air a favor, but your vehicle will run better and you’ll save money by getting better gas mileage.
Check tire pressure at least once a month.
Tires typically lose about a pound of air pressure every month. The door label will tell you what tire pressure the manufacturer recommends for your car or truck. When you check your tire pressure, make sure the tires are cold, meaning you haven’t driven your vehicle for a couple of hours.
Keep tires properly inflated.
So what does tire pressure have to do with air quality? When your tires are low, they produce more rolling friction. More drag makes your engine work harder, and that produces more emissions. Bottom line: The right amount of air inside your tires is good for the air outside your tires.
Change oil and air filters regularly.
When your vehicle’s filters are dirty, they can’t do the job they’re intended to do. That’s bad for your engine, and it doesn’t do our air any good either. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your vehicle’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
Use multi-grade “energy-conserving” oil.
Every 3,000 miles (or however often you change your oil), consider multi-grade motor oil labeled “energy conserving.” Special additives in the oil help reduce harmful emissions and can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy by 5 percent to 10 percent.
Stop at the “click.”
When you’re filling up with gas, don’t top off the tank. Fumes escaping from the neck of the tank are absorbed into the air. Be sure to tighten your vehicle’s gas cap all the way, too. A loose gas cap allows gasoline to evaporate and can cost you up to 30 gallons of gas a year to the air.
Get fuel when it’s cool.
Fill up later in the evening when it’s not so hot. High temperatures cook gas fumes and turn them into nasty ground-level ozone.
Carrying around an extra 50 or 100 pounds in your car or truck makes your engine work harder and use more gas. Reduce emissions by removing items from your vehicle that you don’t really need to carry around.
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.