Mayor Michael Bloomberg told his drivers to stop letting his SUVs idle after The Associated Press reported it observed the vehicles with their engines running for long periods of time while parked throughout the city.
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said Thursday that after learning of AP's findings reported the previous day, the mayor "made it clear" to the police detail that drives him around the city that the administration "should set a better example."
The city also said that "No Engine Idling" signs were installed at the mayor's request months ago in all the Chevrolet Suburbans that transport him. The signs went up earlier this year, around the time Bloomberg signed a bill strengthening the city's anti-idling law and promised a citywide crackdown on enforcing the 38-year-old regulation.
The signs were apparently in place when the AP conducted spot checks over the past week and found the parked vehicles idling at least eight times for periods of 10 minutes to more than an hour.
The city's three-minute idling limit — which Bloomberg recently shortened to one minute around schools — does not legally apply to the mayor's SUVs, which are classified as emergency vehicles.
But Bloomberg has portrayed himself as a leader on climate change, an image he played up as he explored his viability as a 2008 presidential candidate.
In 2007, he announced that by 2030, he wants to reduce the city's carbon count by 30 percent.
To reach that goal, Bloomberg launched an ambitious environmental agenda that included a proposal to toll cars coming into Manhattan's congested streets, a plan to plant a million more trees citywide in 10 years, and efforts to get the city's taxi fleet to go hybrid.
The mayor isn't just violating his own environmental agenda when he lets his SUVs idle. He's wasting fuel and money.
Idling for one hour burns anywhere from half a gallon to a gallon of fuel, experts say.
It is more polluting to leave an engine idling than to drive for the same amount of time, according to David Pettit, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Southern California air program.
Bloomberg's suburbans run on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
The emissions are about 15 percent lower, but the fuel economy is also lower by as much as 30 percent because ethanol has less energy than gasoline, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.