Today’s Solutions: April 18, 2024

Cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles are the source of 11 percent of fine particulate air pollution and 28 percent of nitrogen oxide pollution in New York City. On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a new initiative to try to make a dent in that pollution by harnessing the star power of, uh, Billy Idol to try to get New York drivers to stop idling. (Because “idle” sounds like “Idol” — get it?)

At a press conference in front of City Hall, de Blasio and Idol announced a $1 million publicity campaign to encourage drivers to turn off their engines when their cars are stopped. During the month of March, billboards, gas stations, radio stations, kiosks, and the little TV screens inside yellow taxis will bear ads telling drivers, “Idling is polluting. Shut your engine off.”  The billboards feature a picture of the British rock star glowering at the camera next to the words, “Billy never idles. Neither should you.”

As the new campaign acknowledges, idling is a major problem for human health and the climate. A 2009 study estimated that idling vehicles in New York City produce thousands of tons of pollutants associated with respiratory disease, cancer, asthma, heart disease, and other health effects, along with 130,000 tons of CO2. Will enlisting a scowling glam-rocker to slash air pollution work? We’ll have to wait and see.

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