EcoDriving: The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturerers Gift to the Masses (Opinion)

You look west to see a barren landscape, tumbleweed breezing lazily through the charred remains of a forest.  The rust laden skeleton of what used to be a city echoes the promise of a future long gone.  You are fighting out your days amidst gunfire and tribal warfare in armor composed of animal fur and long deserted hockey pads.  Ironically water isn’t the most important liquid on the planet that spins where the Earth once spun.  You begin to wash the grease smears off your face in a shallow pool…

…oh wait, am I jumping the gun here?

While our gas crises hasn’t quite reached ‘Mad Max’ proportions yet, things are close enough that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers will make this September “Green Check-Up Month.” After countless years of making oversized and inefficient autos, Ford and Chevy are now going to tell us how to save gas.

Now that the automotive dinosaurs realize the proverbial comet is heading straight towards them, it is time for us consumers to drive more efficiently.  It’s not that I disagree at all with the new venture proposed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, I just feel that this is all coming a bit late.  We have been driving cars since the Model-T (and even a little bit before) and saving resources was never an issue.  Webster’s Dictionary defines capitalism as ane economic system in which prices, production, and distribution of goods are determined by competition in a free market. Looking back from today, it’s awfully easy to wonder why efficiency wasn’t an issue for automakers, even after the oil embargo of the 70’s.  Truthfully and unfortunately, consumerism didn’t demand it before like it does now.  Not to mention, looking back makes it easy to say “I told you so.”

Now that’s more than enough negativity, because I’m honestly really excited about the Alliances plan, known simply as EcoDriving. The name EcoDriving is supposed to replace the term hypermiling. According to everyone’s favorite Governor of California, using the techniques provided by on the EcoDriving web site, we can reduce our fuel costs by as much as 15% with minimal effort.  So far, only the states of California and Colorado have become part of the emission fighting community (which is really sad considering the fact that Carbon emissions effect 50 out of 50 American states, not to mention the planet).  I clicked around the site to see what secrets the auto companies knew that could help us conserve gas as well as fight help the environment.  While I didn’t learn anything new, the site was all presented in a really sharp manner that positively correlated saving the environment and money. I know it sounds weird, but some people still haven’t realized that both can be done at the same time.  EcoDriving USA also had a real ‘by the way’ matter-of-factness to it, devoid of all the ‘smug’ that should be emanating from the site.

The EcoDriving community provides 14 no frills tips towards saving gas while driving and 12 tips to environmentally maintain your vehicle .  And again, these are all very basic things, like tightening your gas cap.  According to EcoDriving USA, you could lose up to 30 gallons of gas a year just by not tightening the gas cap properly.  The site also includes a neat little EcoCalculator to help you figure out how much you are helping your budget AND the environment.  Again, only California and Colorado have joined the initiative, and with the EcoCalculator you can calculate how much carbon your state emits.  In the Prairie State that I tend to call home, we could prevent over 7 million tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere, just by tightening our gas caps and not racing to get to red lights.  I know I’m idealistic, but it would be oh so nice to believe that the state of Illinois could join the initiative with other big states like New York.

This program is brought to us by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and they are pressuring their dealerships to give out free ‘green check-ups’ during the month of September.  The Alliance includes such vehicle manufacturers as Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche.  But again, it’s up to the consumers to do something about it.  The Alliance is giving us the resources to save gas and emissions, but we still have to save the gas ourselves.

To me, these kinds of things are really exciting because they are so easy to take part in.  The immediate answer to the gas crisis is not offshore drilling as Senator Barack Obama (my senator who I have been proudly voting for and will continue to vote for through this election and beyond) pointed out. Governor Schwarzenegger of California is a supporter and the spokesman of the EcoDriving initiative and the fact that two people from both sides of the political aisle can agree on something shows that this crisis is all of our problem.  Partisan politics really shouldn’t matter when the well being of the planet is at stake, but I’ve been wrong before.

The most important part about the initiative is that it tells all of us how to get involved, and if enough of us push, we can definitely help the future for the better.  Like I said, all you have to do is start tightening your gas cap.

See if a dealership near you is offering free Green Check-Ups next month.

For more information on a green partnership from the National Automotive Dealers Association, click here.

Thanks to for the picture.  Click here to download the poster for your own personal use and banner ads for your web site.

Anthony Cefali

Anthony is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in biology as well as English. He became interested in the biofuel initiative after getting a job in the Raines Lab of Petroleum Alternatives at the university turning sugars into biofuels. He is the first to admit that he doesn't fully understand everything that he does or is trying to do, but enjoys doing his bit to help the environment. Anthony has very few plans for his future, but is interested in how natural systems work and how urban development changes these systems. On a good day, Anthony enjoys riding his bike really far away and reading Kurt Vonnegut books.