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WI Drivers Face High Gas Prices – and Clean Air Choices

March 28, 2012

BROOKFIELD, Wis. - Fifty bucks to fill your tank with gas? Not unheard of when gasoline prices are about $4 a gallon.

Jerry Medinger, manager of the Clean Fuels and Vehicle Technology program for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, suggests things drivers can do to save money every day, including a strategy known as "trip-chaining."

"A car is most polluting when it first starts - cold starts. So, the idea would be if you can get into the car and drive to your farthest destination first, and then work your way back - try to do 'trip chaining' - so you make one trip with multiple stops, rather than multiple trips."

For drivers seriously thinking about buying a more efficient vehicle because of the high fuel prices, Medinger says it's important to do some homework. There's more to it, he says, than just buying a smaller car.

"Not everybody can drive a smart car, but in most classes there are cars that get better mileage than some other vehicle in that same class."

Driving less and using more efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels also are better for air quality, he says, which means better lung health.

Wisconsin has more than 223,000 flex-fuel vehicles, Medinger says, although many people don't realize they have one. He says drivers can easily tell if theirs is a flex-fuel vehicle by checking the owner's manual. Many cars now have yellow gas caps, and rear tags that carry the words "flex fuel." Those using E-85 can save money, he says.

"The E-85 that's for sale is running - last time I checked - anywhere between 60 and 80 cents cheaper per gallon."

We all make choices every day, Medinger says, and those choices can affect our health.

"You can determine if it's a clean-air choice or not in almost everything, not just transportation. But it's kind of environmental consciousness so that what we do is better for the environment overall."

Idling a car gets zero miles per gallon, so Medinger suggests shutting off the engine rather than letting it idle, even for a minute or more.

He says more information and fuel-saving tips are online at cleanairchoice.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI