With Better Technology and Your Help, Cleaner Air

 

Keep gas vapors in their place.

As cars' exhaust emissions have been reduced, another major auto air pollution source has remained: "evaporative emissions." "Evaporative emissions" are gas vapors that escape, unburned, into the air. Gas vapors escape during refueling, and they're nasty pollutants. (You know that distinctive gas smell when you fill up? It's unburned gas escaping into the air.) They also can escape from your car's fuel tank, or from any point of the fuel system when the engine is running or after it's been turned off.

Gas vapors released into the atmosphere are bad for two reasons:

Help is on the way.

In 1997, most gas stations in Vermont began installing new gas pump nozzles. The new nozzles fit snugly over the fuel fill-up line of your car, capturing escaping gas vapors and returning them to the station's storage tanks. The nozzles were installed at bigger gas stations in 1997, at medium-size stations in 1998, and will be installed at smaller stations in 1999. Small "mom-and-pop" stations don't have to change over.

Nearly all stations in Vermont now have vapor return lines from the station's underground storage tank. During tanker deliveries, these lines are connected to the tanker so gas vapors forced out of the tank are returned to the tanker truck instead of being vented into the atmosphere.

 

 

These three things can help make the air cleaner.

To make sure that existing pollution control systems are installed properly and maintained, state car inspections will include new checks. Beginning in 1997, all cars will be checked to make sure their catalytic converters are present and properly hooked up. In 1998, all cars will be checked for proper gas tank caps. And in 1999, car engine and emission control systems on cars 1996 and newer will be checked through the car's on-board diagnostic computer system.

 

Is there a dynamometer in your car's future?

Some states have comprehensive "I/M" (inspection/maintenance) programs that require your car's exhaust emissions system to be tested periodically. If your car's system doesn't meet the standards set in its engine's specifications, you must have your car tuned or repaired and have it retested. Vermont currently does not have a comprehensive I/M program that requires emissions testing. However, if clean air is to be maintained, it's possible some sort of emissions testing program will need to be established. During an emissions test, your car's drive wheels are placed on a "dynamometer," or rollers, so it remains stationary while the engine is run with the transmission engaged. A computer-controlled analyzer tests the emissions from the tailpipe and then determines if the emissions are within the standards set for your car's engine.

 

Someday you may say "plug it in" rather than "fill it up."

Another way to meet clean air standards is to build, and drive, cleaner cars -- much cleaner cars, not just gasoline-powered ones with high-tech emission control systems. One alternative is electric cars, which are now being manufactured and sold by major automakers. In fact, some states are requiring that a certain percentage of all new vehicles sold be electric-powered. You can learn more about electric vehicles in Vermont by visiting the Drive Electric Vermont web site.

Automakers are also experimenting with other fuels, such as natural gas and hydrogen, to make cleaner cars. Visit these Web sites to learn more about alternative vehicles:

 

 

There are other things you can do to help make our air cleaner.

If you're 16 and just about to get your driver's license, you are likely one of the most resourceful travelers around. That's because you've had to develop the skills to get around without the use of a car that was ready and waiting for you any moment of the day or night. Don't lose those skills! Put them to good use! Although the temptation is high just to jump into a car and go, think how you can help improve air quality through some alternative travel strategies:

 

A final word (almost) on doing your part for cleaner air.

When you drive, drive with the environment in mind.

OK. You're out of the house, into the car, and about to start the engine. Just a few more thoughts on how -- even if your car is properly tuned and maintained, and even if you're about to pick up friends to carpool for bagels -- you can do your thing for clean air:

 

This really is the final word on doing your part for clean air.


Life on this planet isn't much fun without air. And it's a drag when the air here on earth is dirty and smelly. We've done a lot to keep it clean, but we have to keep doing more. With your driver's license comes a polluter's license. You are now legally permitted to dirty the air. Use the privilege wisely. Be a responsible polluter. Maintain your car, use it sparingly, and drive like your breath depended on it.