Stop Idling Your Vehicle! 6 Billion Gallons of Gas Wasted Each Year

Stop Idling Your Vehicle! 6 Billion Gallons of Gas Wasted Each Year

  • This article was contributed by Ashley Broussard, intern for the Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources.

After Monday’s storm, it is starting to feel like winter already. While the cold weather makes its way into Kane County, it’s important to remember the significance of not idling your car.

In 2015, The U.S Department of Energy estimated that more than 6 billion gallons of gas are wasted every year from idling.

Although it may be convenient in the upcoming season, there’s plenty of reasons to reconsider whether you should leave your car running.


First and foremost, idling wastes energy. No matter what type of car you drive, letting it idle wastes gas.

According to Argonne National Laboratory research, idling wastes 0.3 gallons of gas per hour for a small car and about 1 gallon per hour for a big truck. Each gallon of fuel used emits about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Idling contributes to air pollution. As stated in the Kane County Idling and Reduction policy, automobiles and trucks contribute a large portion of harmful emissions. Emissions from your vehicle can contribute to the formation of ground‐level ozone. This poses a health threat. Poor air quality can cause or aggravate lung illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma and emphysema.

If wasting energy/money and contributing to air pollution aren’t big enough reasons, it may be even illegal. Certain areas have policies in place against idling. So far, nine states limit idling to three to five minutes. These states include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont.

Although Illinois is not part of this list, be aware of potential county or city laws that restrict idling. Some counties and cities within Illinois have fines that range from $50 to $250 for a first offense. That amount doubles to $500 for a second offense.

Common Myths

“Idling my car uses less gas than restarting it.”

Turning off and restarting an engine uses less fuel than letting an engine run for 30 seconds. Unless you’re idling less than 30 seconds, you’re actually saving energy by turning off your vehicle.

“My vehicle won’t operate properly unless it’s warmed up.”

This is also not true. According to most car manufacturers, the best way to warm a vehicle up is drive slowly after turning the vehicle on. Advances in technology have made it so the catalytic converter, which reduces emissions, operates much sooner once the vehicle is in motion.


As previously mentioned, you’ll save energy. Of the 6 billion gallons of gas wasted every year, about half is estimated to come from personal vehicles.

Saving energy means you’ll also be saving money. It’s a win-win!

With 20 pounds of carbon dioxide being released with every gallon of gas, not idling decreases harmful emissions and reduces air pollution. These factors have a major influence on the well-being of our families and our planet.

Simply by turning off your vehicle, you can be part of the solution.

‘It Takes a Village’

When picking children up from school, turn the car off. Many anti-idling campaigns have already started against leaving diesel-fueled buses running when children aren’t on them. Not only does this help improve the local air quality, but it saves the school district money by conserving fuel.

This does not just apply to buses though; passenger vehicles left idling by parents waiting to pick up their kids also create a harmful environment for the students and staff.

Keep Kane County children safe and make an effort to reduce your emissions. Talk to the principal of your child’s school to ask that anti-idling signs be posted where school buses and parents’ vehicles wait. Encourage your child’s school to be part of the USEPA’s Clean Diesel program.

Speak out against idling, and encourage your friends, neighbors and family to stop idling their cars, as well.