Let me begin with a heartfelt, personal message: I’m only the messenger, please don’t kill me.
That said, I’ve spent enough time behind the wheel of racing karts or riding up and down South Florida beach towns on small, 50 cc scooters to tell you that the weight of the rider can make a big difference in the overall performance of a given vehicle, and 150 lbs. gets down the road a lot quicker than 200 lbs. (I know, I’ve been both). Still, when I read the headline “Are Fat People Driving Up the Price of Gas? Are They the Source of the Greenhouse Effect?” over on The Truth About Cars (TTAC) blog, it seemed a bit … what’s the word? Sensationalist.
I do enjoy tabloid journalism, however, so I clicked the little (Read More …) link and got to reading.
It turns out, the heavy lifting was done by a Washington think-tank called Resources for the Future (RFF), who examined ““the unexplored link between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and vehicle demand”. Which is the long version of “bigger people buy bigger cars“, which seems pretty obvious.
What isn’t immediately obvious, however, is exactly how much of an impact rampant obesity has on something like the price of fuel. According to the RFF, a 10 % increase in the rate of obesity reduces the average mpg of new vehicles demanded by 2.5 %, resulting in increased demand and a $0.30 cent increase in gas prices to counteract and millions of excess tons of carbon emissions. The whys and hows of those numbers are detailed in the RFF’s report (titled “Lose Some, Save Some: Obesity, Automobile Demand, and Gasoline Consumption in the U.S.“), which also correlates the market share of pickups and light trucks with the percentage of overweight/obese people in the population (from 1960-2006).
As TTAC points out, the study is a bit dated (it was initially published in 2009) but its implications are still timely and relevant, especially when one considers the millions of dollars in research monies being given to companies like Lotus to specifically research the methods, costs, and benefits involved in making cars lighter.
TTAC’s Bertel Schmitt does an excellent job of summing up the rest of the article (while deftly avoiding childish “all things being equal, fat people use more soap” jokes), so you have your choice: CLICK HERE to read TTAC’s summary, or CLICK HERE to download the entire 34-page PDF document (complete with bibliography, sources, etc.).