I live in Pleasant Grove. Like most of you, some days I see the pollution hanging over the valley and wish that things were better. Most of it comes from cars — fewer cars would mean less pollution and less wasted energy. We can work on that, but let's also think about the connection between burning fuel and air quality. If our cars burn less fuel, that would help clear the air, too. Let me tell you about one day.

I have been doing fuel economy tests on a car the last few days, part of a long series. My "test track" is the stretch of I-80 westward from Salt Lake City to the Nevada line. On my way there for a test, I drove through heavy morning traffic south of Salt Lake City. Afterward, I drove back to Pleasant Grove at midday, along the same path. There were astonishing differences, I thought, between the frenetic morning and the serene midday traffic.

In the morning, almost everyone pushed the speed limit near to being ticketed (75 mph). Other times were wasted in slowdowns of 10 to 20 mph. Driving along in this traffic, my test car got just so-so fuel economy — the meter showed 52 mpg. Coming back after the test, traffic was much lighter and the cars were slower, about 65 mph. I was glad to relax on the return trip, going comfortably slow myself.

In the test I drove at 60 mph with no sudden stops from the Tooele truck stops on I-80 to the Nevada line and back again (on 3 gallons of fuel). The car, a 2003 Beetle TDI, showed that its highly efficient engine can get 65 mpg in such conditions.

I got very good mileage. Speed matters tremendously. The other part is to keep your feet off of the pedals. I drove somewhat slowly with no sudden stopping — that's a major secret to getting great mileage. And on the midday saunter home, I set the cruise at 57 mph and didn't touch anything until I got to my Pleasant Grove exit. The meter showed 75 mpg for the 50-mile homeward trip. (A light wind from the north was helping the car along.)

My mileage may be extreme, but I think it accurately reflects what other drivers are experiencing, albeit with more fuel. The point is, if we drive efficiently and burn less gas, then we also will be helping to keep Utah's air a lot cleaner.

I think all of us need to work together to clean up Utah's air. Sure, drive less if you can. But let's also find alternatives for that frenetic drive in heavy traffic that wastes gas and our nerves. Drive slower, allow room ahead for easy stops and space out the driving times and the available routes. (And I will keep working on making cars and engines more efficient.)

Traffic congestion, speeding and driver stress are deadly in many ways. We all know the solutions. Let's get to it. We will save a lot of money along the way.


Ernest Rogers and a friend modify various car engines looking for more fuel efficiency. They hope to start a company in the field.