Thursday, October 26, 2006

Junk in the Trunk

Of all the reasons to lose weight, perhaps the dumbest one was given global exposure today by a journal not previously known for its medical or behavioral health credentials.

The journal Engineering Economist calculates that compared to 1960, the weight of today's obese Americans has caused a 1 billion-gallon increase in gasoline usage from hauling around all the extra weight over the past 46 years. The conclusion: if we just ate less we could end dependence on foreign oil.

Apples and oranges ought to be protesting this finding!

Aside from the law of conservation of energy, which I do not pretend to fully understand, the flaws in this analysis are numerous and obvious.

First of all, nothing is the same now as in 1960, except for scary Republicans. The cars back then were far less energy-efficient than they are today and the gasoline is better quality and at the same inflation-adjusted price.

There are more (and taller) people today, not only due to the baby boom but due to safer cars killing fewer people.

And if all that weight resides in the passenger compartment of our cars as a result of eating too much junk, then it is logical to assume less gasoline is being used for turnip trucks, which I swear I did not fall from any time recently.

Blaming excessive gasoline usage on junk food is like blaming global warming on your faulty toaster. The authors have it entirely backwards. We are not spending more on gasoline because we are fat, we are fat because we are spending more to drive places we used to walk.


  1. Anonymous1:28 AM

    Nice post! I like that you always make me think!

    Miss White

  2. Anonymous5:02 AM

    I'd guess the American urge to make a powerful personal statement through the type of vehicle he/she drives is more pertinent here than girth, hence the predominance of the gas guzzling SUV everywhere you go.

    It may well be that your logic is right. Americans get fatter because they dont walk anywhere. America would be a fitter, healthier nation if George Bush took Tony Blair's advice and tripled the cost of fuel. Then the U.S. might cut down on its unhealthy and massively diproportionate contribution to the greenhouse effect by burning about 75% of the world's combusted fossil fuels.

    Ahem..sorry..I'll step off my green Euro soapbox now (grin)

    Brian F.

  3. I am all for more exercise -- like climbing up and down from my own soapbox and hunting for the remote -- but for most people in the States, there are few safe accessible place to walk.

    Housing and shopping developments were built around roads, instead of vice versa. There is some movement toward changing this, but the American love affair with the car is such that most people give their cars names and use it not to put into a garage but as a garage for their belongings.