Paul Andersen: Idling engines and idling brains |

Paul Andersen: Idling engines and idling brains

The SUV culture is thriving in the Roaring Fork Valley, just as it is throughout the country. Even in Florida, where snow and ice are foreign substances, they drive these fuel-inefficient behemoths. But please, must they be left idling at the curb?

Last Wednesday in Basalt I stopped at the bank and parked behind a big black Range Raper with tinted windows. The engine was running but no one was behind the wheel. I ran my bank errand and 10 minutes later the Range Raper was still purring away.

Later, when I met my son at a soccer practice, there were two soccer moms conversing at the open window of an idling Suburban. My son wanted to show me the dirt hills where he had been riding his mountain bike, so I walked over and watched him ride a couple circuits.

When I walked back to the soccer field, the soccer moms were still talking, the one standing at the window, the other sitting inside. The engine was rumbling away like an advertisement for Middle East oil cartels.

Another 10 minutes passed before the conversation finally ended. The soccer mom in the Suburban drove off and the other mom climbed into a huge diesel-powered SUV, fired it up and drove four parking spaces closer to the neighboring baseball field for ultimate convenience.

“What is wrong with these people that they are so ignorant of global warming and air pollution that they leave their cars running?” I ranted to a friend a few days later. “These people are either unconscious or they just don’t give a damn.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said my friend, who then shared an episode from last summer when he attended his son’s baseball game at a Carbondale park.

“When the game started,” he said, “one of the baseball moms was saddled with two bored little kids. Her solution was to strap them into their car seats in the fully appointed family van, start the engine and slip in a videotape. For all nine innings those kids watched a movie and that engine idled.”

George W. Bush is taking a lot of heat lately for catering to the interests of American energy companies. He is portrayed as an environmental saboteur whose primary concern is granting favors to energy companies through bureaucratic largesse.

Bush is simply catering to the insatiable energy appetites of Americans. There are millions of fossil fools out there who idle their engines as a sign of affluence and ignorance while showing a complete disregard for the future they are handing to their children. Play soccer and baseball while breathing polluted air from mom’s gas-guzzler.

A recent government-sponsored study on global warming validates the severity of climate change, but that study is being squelched by conservative Republicans and their industry lobbyists who want to keep Americans in the dark about the impacts of conspicuous consumption.

Rather than mandate improved fuel efficiency in automobiles, the Senate rejected such a proposal in March after succumbing to hard lobbying from the U.S. auto industry, which will drag its feet on fuel efficiency until the Arctic ice cap melts like a snow cone on the Fourth of July.

“Automakers argued stricter standards would cost thousands of labor union workers their jobs and force so-called soccer moms to switch to lighter, less safe vehicles,” explained a Reuters article.

Some drivers, a small minority, have voluntarily shifted to those “lighter” vehicles and are leading a charge toward a conscious reduction of pollution. Unfortunately, their gains are offset by idling brains that are too lazy to shut off their idling engines.

Paul Andersen thinks the air we breathe is the responsibility of us all. His column appears every Monday.

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