Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Expanding Waistlines Waste A Lot of Fuel

"As American waistlines have expanded since 1960, so has their consumption of gasoline, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University," according to this press release. "The conclusions are based on mathematical computations drawn from data on U.S. weight gain from 1960 to 2002, a period in which the weight of the average American has increased by more than 24 pounds.

Americans are now pumping 938 million gallons of fuel (almost 1 billion!) more annually than they were in 1960 as a result of extra weight in vehicles. And when gas prices average $3 a gallon, the tab for overweight people in a vehicle amounts to $7.7 million a day, or $2.8 billion a year. The numbers are added costs linked directly to the extra drain of body weight on fuel economy."

Watch this interesting graphic of the body mass index in the U.S. increasing from 1985 to 2003.


At 6/27/2007 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post doesn't make any sense. At least since the 1980s per capita gasoline consumption has fallen substantially; does this mean our waist-lines shrunk during this same period?

I don't think so.

At 6/27/2007 7:32 AM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

The CAFE standards went from 20 mpg in the 1980s to 27.5 mpg in the 1990s, which probably explains much of the decline in per-capita gas consumption. But if people hadn't gained so much during this period, the per-capita gas consumption would have gone down by an even GREATER AMOUNT.

At 6/27/2007 10:02 AM, Blogger juandos said...

What makes anyone think the whole BMI nonsense has any real world validity in the first place?

Professor argues obesity is a fat lie
"Based on the statistics, most of the charges saying that obesity caused various diseases or that obesity caused thousands of deaths were simply not supported"

Does this professor have something to consider?

At 6/27/2007 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Empirical data is fine for research, but sometimes common sense will suffice just as well. When I graduated high school in 1973, the tallest person on the basketball team was 6’1” and weighed less than 200 pounds. He was the center, and the tallest and the heaviest on the varsity team of a school with over 1500 students. Last year, at the same high school, the guard was over 6’ tall and the center was 6’9.” I would guess the average weight of the team was 250 pounds. What’s this mean? I don’t know. I guess it means that I’m old! But, I’m pretty sure they are growing them much bigger and taller nowadays.

More weight. More fuel. Makes sense to me.

At 6/28/2007 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MJP, my car weighs an ungodly amount of weight. While in it, I am only a fraction of the total weight of the vehicle, and the average weight gained over this period is only a tiny fraction of that.

So, when you say "even GREATER AMOUNT" we are talking less than 1%.

And CAFE standards only impacted auto makers on the margins. What drove up MPG was cheap fuel efficient imports from Japan in response to high gas prices earlier in the decade.

At 6/28/2007 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to drag race cars in the 1970s. Any time we changed the weight of the car, we changed classes because the car classes were primarily determined by weight and H.P. Identical motors in F stock and G stock ran .10 to .30 seconds different in the ¼ mile. We had a rule-of-thumb that 1/10 of a second cost $1000 (this was in mid 1970 dollars). So, to answer the question: How fast do you want to go? The answer was simply: How much do you want to pay?

A 200 pound person in a 200 H.P. car has a 1:1 weight to H.P. ratio. So, removing 1 pound of weight has the same effect as adding 1 H.P. Holding all other factors constant, less H.P. required would require less fuel consumed. Accordingly, over many miles, that would mean substantially more gallons of fuel consumed per pound.


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