By Simran Sethi, NBC News contributing environmental correspondent
Today, Brian anchors from the Chrysler plant in Warren, Michigan, just outside Detroit, where there has been a lot of talk lately about impressive "green" offerings – from muscle cars powered with bio-diesel to luxury cars outfitted with fuel cells. These are inspiring innovations for the future, but how can we maximize our rides today?
For starters, we can improve the fuel efficiency of the cars we have and encourage improved fuel efficiency for models in production. Consider this: Two-thirds of the oil we consume in the United States goes toward powering our vehicles. And poor fuel economy is major contributing factor to pollution and global climate change.
The key to improving fuel efficiency are CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. Developed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, CAFÉ standards are the measure of average fuel economy, expressed in miles-per-gallon (mpg) of a manufacturer's fleet of passenger cars or light trucks. Despite skyrocketing oil rates, declining domestic oil production, and global oil shortages, America's CAFE standards have remained fixed at 27.5 miles per gallon for nearly two decades.
The time is ripe for raising CAFÉ standards and encouraging automakers to meet that goal by increasing production of more efficient cars. They've been reluctant to get on board because their most profitable vehicles are the least efficient ones. So it's up to us to encourage them to do better. Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to safety records or fuel efficiency. Do your homework (www.fueleconomy.gov is one good source). Consider hybrids and bio-diesel conversions. Send a message to the auto industry with your next car purchase.
If you aren't in the market for a new car, you can still "green" your current ride.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Bundle errands so you aren't making multiple short trips.
- Keep your tires properly inflated. It can improve gas mileage.
- Take the empty roof rack off your car. The drag and extra weight can increase fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10 percent.
- Give your car regular tune-ups.
- Don't idle. The Department of Energy says you don't need to warm up your car for more than 30 seconds, even on the coldest of days.
- Drive 65 miles per hour instead of 75, which will increase your fuel efficiency by 15 percent.
- Use cruise control.
- Carpool, take public transportation, and walk when you can.