The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for February 27th, 2013

Idle Threat

The Environmental Defense Fund website has some myth-busting facts about idling. Did you know idling for ten seconds burns more gas than restarting your car? Or that diesel engines produce more than 40 hazardous air pollutants? And that sitting in a cloud of your own exhaust with the heater on is really lousy for your health?

I’ve noticed a string of egregious idlers lately. The first was a young woman tapping away at her iPhone in a posh SUV in a shopping center parking lot. Temperatures were mild, so it’s not like she was braving the elements or anything; it was just internal combustion for internal combustion’s sake, I guess. The following day, I witnessed a pickup truck belching putrid exhaust for at least 20 minutes outside a convenience store. In this case, it was cold out, and a woman was waiting in the truck for her companion in the store, but seriously. Go inside and warm yourself by the spinning hot dogs or something! Then, while staying at a motel out of town, I observed a tractor trailer idling in an empty lot from dusk until the next morning. It was cold and snowy, and my guess was that the truck driver opted to sleep in the truck with the heat on — spent fuel be damned! — instead of paying for a motel room. Which is frankly pretty sad, but also alarming if you’re not a fan of global warming or particulate matter in the air you breathe.

After this cartoon was published, someone involved in the production of a documentary about idling in NYC contacted me — it turns out “Idle Threat” is the name of their film. You can watch the trailer here.


Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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