Natural Resources Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Office of Energy Efficiency Links


Communities and Government

Prepared Articles

Vehicle Idling Wastes Fuel, Contributes to Climate Change

Did you know that many Canadians are vehicle idlers? It's a habit that costs us millions of dollars a year in wasted fuel. It also produces unnecessary emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas (GHG) that contributes to climate change.

Calculations drawn from a Canadian survey on driving habits and behaviours 20 suggest that in the peak of winter, many Canadian motorists idle their vehicles for about eight minutes a day -resulting in a combined total of more than 75 million minutes a day – equal to one vehicle idling for 144 years. Although we idle our vehicles about 40 percent less in summer, Canadian motorists still waste a significant amount of fuel and money.

The transportation sector is the single largest source of GHG emissions in Canada. If drivers of light-duty vehicles reduced unnecessary idling by just three minutes for just one day, we would save over 1.7 million litres of fuel. We would also prevent nearly 4 million kg of CO2 from entering the atmosphere on that day.

CO2 is an unavoidable by-product of burning gasoline. The average car produces about 2.3 kg of CO2 for every litre of gasoline used. It generates about three times its own weight in CO2 every year.

There's another issue to consider. Most gasoline is derived from crude oil, a non-renewable resource. We're not in danger of running out in the near future, but crude oil reserves in Canada and around the world are dwindling and the demand for oil is expected to increase, resulting in higher oil prices – why waste this valuable resource?

The bottom line? The more gasoline a vehicle uses, the more it contributes to climate change. And idling burns fuel for no good reason – after all, it gets us nowhere.

So, if you're going to be stopped for more than 60 seconds – except in traffic – turn the engine off. Unnecessary idling wastes money and fuel, and produces greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Stopping unnecessary idling is also one way you can help Canada reach its target of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 relative to 2006 levels.21

20 Survey of Drivers" Attitudes Awareness and Behaviour, Natural Resources Canada, May 1998
21 The Government of Canada's Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions, Catalogue No. En 84-53/2007 (Executive Summary pg. iv)