The National Park Service is working to address climate change through a number of strategies, including sustainable transportation efforts. The NPS is collaborating broadly on these efforts with partners, concessioners, visitors, and surrounding communities. Through this work, the NPS will cut emissions, conserve fuel, better protect the resources under our stewardship, and demonstrate green transportation strategies to National Park System visitors.
Climate Change and Transportation
The transportation sector is responsible for a significant portion of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Highway vehicles release about 1.6 billion metric tons of GHGs into the atmosphere each year, mostly in the form of CO2. Each gallon of gasoline burned creates 20 pounds of CO2, and a typical vehicle produces about five to nine tons per year.1 Gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation contributed about 29 percent of the total energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States in 2012.2
Within the NPS, about 50 percent of GHG emissions are attributable to transportation, including from vehicle fleet and equipment operations, staff commuting, and business travel. When visitors, concessioners, partners, and neighboring communities are taken into account, our GHG footprint multiplies many times over. So any progress we make in cutting our transportation-related emissions will significantly improve our overall GHG footprint.
Be Part of the Progress
Everyone can join the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The approaches listed below are some of our primary strategies, and many can be implemented immediately.
Idling a vehicle truly gets you nowhere: It reduces fuel economy, produces air pollutants, and wastes resources. Idling a car uses a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, and idling a heavy-duty vehicle uses about one gallon per hour. Researchers estimate that vehicle idling in the United States wastes about six billion gallons of fuel annually. That translates to 60 million tons of CO2 and $22 billion per year.3
Modern vehicles do not need to idle. Computerized controls in today's vehicles bring the engine up to operating temperature faster when the vehicle is moving than when it is idling. Even on the coldest day, a typical car engine takes less than five minutes to warm up if the car is moving. It takes almost twice as long if the car is just idling. Contrary to some myths out there, turning your car off and back on again does not use more fuel than idling. Idling can actually increase engine wear and shorten vehicle life.4
Efficient driving practices can improve your fuel economy by more than 30 percent.5 There are a number of tactics you can implement to cut your fuel use and emissions.
Reducing Vehicle Miles
You can cut emissions and fuel use by reducing the number of miles of vehicle travel. Try carpooling or using alternative modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, and public transit. Many of these options are healthier for you, save money, and make for a more enjoyable trip.
4 Department of Energy's Clean Cities. Idling is Not the Way to Go: http://afdc.energy.gov/uploads/publication/light_duty_fs_6-2013_.pdf
Efficient driving practices can improve your fuel economy by more than 30 percent.
Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles
Many alternative fuels and advanced vehicles can significantly reduce emissions, fuel costs, and reliance on petroleum.6 The NPS has teamed up with Clean Cities to support projects that increase the use of these fuels and technologies in parks.
Across the country, parks are operating buses that run on compressed natural gas, biodiesel, or propane;conventional ranger vehicles are being replaced with fuel-efficient hybrid electric vehicles; and plug-in electric vehicles are being deployed in parks in Alaska, Tennessee, California, Maine and other locations.7
Take advantage of the benefits of these fuels and technologies the next time you rent or purchase a vehicle—or maybe even in your existing vehicle. There are now more than 11,000 publicly accessible alternative fueling stations and electric charging stations in the U.S.8
6 Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center: http://afdc.energy.gov
Take the Green Rides Pledge
Join your fellow NPS employees in a commitment to take simple, meaningful steps to cut emissions, reduce petroleum use, and improve fuel economy. Take the Green Rides Pledge at https://mygreenparks.nps.gov.
Last updated: October 16, 2020