The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers launched an initiative called “EcoDriving” yesterday, to educate Americans about how to reduce fuel consumption and cut carbon dioxide emissions by changing driving habits. Amy Corsinita, an Alliance spokeswoman, told, “The program helps drivers achieve the highest gas mileage available from every single vehicle on the road, regardless of size and age.” California and Colorado are the first states to formally support this consumer awareness program, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spearheading the endorsement.

The initiative was met with skepticism by environmentalists, who assert that the campaign throws a smoke screen over the industry’s slow move toward fuel-saving vehicles. “Providing drivers tips on how to improve their fuel economy is helpful, but the industry needs to be doing a lot more than this,” said Jim Kleisch, senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an interview with “Consumers need cleaner and substantially more fuel-efficient vehicles on the showroom floors, and until that happens, our economy and our environment are going to suffer.”

The “EcoDriving” program describes a set of best practices for driving and maintenance, allowing a typical car owner to increase fuel economy by approximately 15 percent. Driving and operation practices include: utilizing proper braking techniques, driving at optimum speeds, making the best use of synchronized traffic lights, and deciding when it makes sense to use air conditioning. On the maintenance side, the advice tackles issues such as choosing which motor oil to use, as well as understanding the effects of tire pressure.

Much of the information provided is common sense. The idea is for motorists to begin shrinking their carbon footprint immediately without having to buy a new fuel-efficient vehicle, or wait years on the development of breakthrough technology.