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The Fuel Cost of Obesity 285

Posted by samzenpus
from the 20-miles-per-cheeseburger dept.
thecarchik writes "America loves to complain about gas mileage and the cost of gasoline. As it turns out, part of the problem is us. How much does it really matter? A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 1.1 percent increase in self-reported obesity, which translates into extra weight that your vehicle has to haul around. The study estimates that 1 billion extra gallons of fuel were needed to compensate for passenger weight gained between 1960 and 2002."
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The Fuel Cost of Obesity

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  • by BobMcD (601576) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:39PM (#33242812)

    One key finding was that almost 1 billion gallons of gasoline per year can be attributed to passenger weight gain in non-commercial vehicles between 1960 and 2002--this translates to .7 percent of the total fuel used by passenger vehicles annually.

    So they found it had nearly nothing to do with it. Spiffy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sumdumass (711423)

      Nearly nothing, lets make that next to nothing, or completely negligable seeing how more fuel is used annually to run to the store for a newspaper or a soda or single under $10 items that aren't even close to being a necessity then the total passenger weight gain in non-commercial vehicles over the course of 42 years.

      There was a study a while back which said that if people could purchase junk food when they purchased their groceries or gas or whatever other reason they needed to be at a store, we could cut

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        There was a study a while back which said that if people could purchase junk food when they purchased their groceries or gas or whatever other reason they needed to be at a store, we could cut something like 15% of our annual fuel usage. Of course I can't find a link to the article on it, but it was about consolidating trips to the store to save on fuel expenses.

        What luck! This is what I'm always doing on grocery day. And I thought I was being lazy. Now I know I'm being GREEN! :D

    • by hamburger lady (218108) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:16PM (#33243496)

      methinks the fuel that went into the growing, processing and shipping of all the extra food obese americans stuff down their pieholes is gonna account for a more substantive share than this.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        But if the obese people die much earlier they might still use up less energy and resources overall.

        e.g. Instead of dying at 80 they die at 60.

        I believe by the time most people hit 70 they start to consume more resources and wealth than they produce.

        For similar reasons that's why smoking isn't so bad (assuming you collect hefty tobacco taxes) :).
    • I didn't see any mention of the increase in the amount of diesel to haul the food around to fatten our asses up either.

  • How about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:40PM (#33242834)

    offsetting this by the fuel savings coming from reduced family size. People simply have fewer children on average than they used to.

    Wow you really can make numbers say anything you want. Remember that thanks to all the SUV's, the weight of the average car has increased since the 60's, not decreased as you would expect from losing the chassis and moving to a monocoque design.

    But hey, let's bash fat people. How about that fat tax?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sznupi (719324)

      They do need larger (wider, most importantly) car to feel comfortable...so yeah, it's not only weight increses of passangers, also cars; perhaps partly because the average comfortable size lies somewhat higher.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by johnlcallaway (165670)
        I ride a 600 pound motorcycle, so I use less gas than almost EVERY skinny person that drives their car to work alone. And I get to use the HOV lane, which means I'm not in stop-and-go traffic as often.

        So suck my fat dick....
        • by sznupi (719324)

          Yeah, and I typically walk, use a bike or public transport...you were saying?

          (that said, not that many motorcycles can beat my car, if I do have to / choose to use it, Fabia with an SDI engine)

        • I ride a 600 pound motorcycle, so I use less gas than almost EVERY skinny person that drives their car to work alone. And I get to use the HOV lane, which means I'm not in stop-and-go traffic as often.

          You don't drive between cars? In CA, that's specifically legal (though still seems kind of dangerous.)

          Slightly off topic, but funny and relating to verifying the above, apparently CA highway patrol gets the frequently asked question "If I'm pregnant, can I use the HOV lane?" [ca.gov]

          Only in California...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          I ride a 600 pound motorcycle, so I use less gas than almost EVERY skinny person that drives their car to work alone. And I get to use the HOV lane, which means I'm not in stop-and-go traffic as often.

          I'm not aware of any 600 pound motorcycles that get fuel economy worth a fuck. What is your actual economy like? And I don't mean theoretical or best-case, I mean what you get on average.

          Further, you're probably polluting four times as much as an SUV or more per mile, due to the lack of meaningful emissions controls on motorcycles. So fuck you anyway with your allegedly fat dick. (If you really had one, you wouldn't need to tell us about it, or your motorcycle.)

      • by AusIV (950840)
        Citation? I'm not making any authoritative claims on the subject, but based on my personal observations most of the particularly heavy people I know drive smaller cars than my own. From what I've seen tall people are likely to want larger cars so they can get in and out more comfortably, but I haven't really noticed any correlation between car size and obesity.
        • by sznupi (719324)

          You want a citation to the self evident fact that "they do need larger (wider, most importantly) car to feel comfortable"?... (notice how I didn't say they actually have such cars; just wondered if it might be the reason for the trend, "perhaps partly because..")

          And based on my personal observations it might work like that...so there (but then, I don't really see any " particularly heavy" people around)

        • by sznupi (719324)

          PS. And generally, TFA is your citattion (...for something I didn't exactly said) - apparently they specifically tried to determine how much the rising obesity levels influence uptake of larger cars.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      offsetting this by the fuel savings coming from reduced family size. People simply have fewer children on average than they used to.

      Wow you really can make numbers say anything you want.

      Indeed, you can! Gas mileage is asymptotic, right? This is why people carpool. If you calculate cost per person per mile, isn't it better to have a big family? Everyone travels cheaper!

      In other news, advertisers love to say things like, "The more you buy, the more you save!"

    • But hey, let's bash fat people

      Well, it's sure easier than bashing skinny people, what with their better cardio, faster running speeds, and smaller target area.

  • So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joeflies (529536) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:44PM (#33242908)

    Although 1B gals sounds like a lot, consider that Wiki says the US alone used 138B of gas in 2006. So saving 1B gals over the course of 20 years globally is a relative drop in the bucket.

    What someone needs to do is track the relative fuel cost based on the weight and number of vehicles over the years, and it should be come apparent that we should be driving motorcycles and lightweight double passenger cars rather than trying to wrap our minds about how human weight affects oil consumption.

    • Re:So? (Score:4, Informative)

      by _LORAX_ (4790) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:53PM (#33243098) Homepage

      Bad summary. 1B gals/year is quotes in the article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by robot256 (1635039)

      From the TFA:

      One key finding was that almost 1 billion gallons of gasoline per year can be attributed to passenger weight gain in non-commercial vehicles between 1960 and 2002--this translates to .7 percent of the total fuel used by passenger vehicles annually.

      So it was actually 1 billion gallons per year, not total. Seems like the blog words it poorly and that they're really saying that if we were all the same weight as we were in 1960, we would have used 1 billion gallons less fuel last year than we actually did. But that is still only a 0.7% increase in yearly consumption.

      More fun is this observation:

      One other result of the obesity problem is the increase risk of crashes as noted in a recent study and that is also due to the fact that obese drivers are less likely to buckle up because seat belts may not fit properly.

      So basically, fat people are looking for Darwin Awards. Now just make sure they are all distracted on their giant phones, and problem solved.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      it should be come apparent that we should be driving motorcycles and lightweight double passenger cars rather than trying to wrap our minds about how human weight affects oil consumption.

      Of course, you can only make that argument because somebody bothered to compute how much human weight affects fuel consumption. It is wrong to claim that a study was unjustified because it shows that further concern over some issue is unnecessary.

    • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday August 13, 2010 @07:27PM (#33247150)

      Although 1B gals sounds like a lot, consider that Wiki says the US alone used 138B of gas in 2006. So saving 1B gals over the course of 20 years globally is a relative drop in the bucket.

      Yeah I probably could cycle to work every day for the rest of my life, but I won't since it's just a relative drop in the bucket.
      I could replaceall the halogens in my house with energy saving bulbs, but I only use 4kWh which in terms of the entire suburb is just a relative drop in the bucket.
      Australia could build a new Nuclear power stations instead of Brown Coal power stations, but with China on the rise it's just a relative drop in the bucket.

      Every time I read a comment like yours I realise that people don't get it. There's a finite number of drops in the bucket. Removing one alone does nothing appreciable. But if you start removing many of these tiny drops pretty soon you'll find the bucket is starting to empty. This isn't a 1B saving over 20 years. This is an ADDITIONAL 1B saving over 20 years.

      Though admittedly fat people die younger, and may have difficulty breeding so that's probably good for the environment.

  • Remember... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bicx (1042846) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:45PM (#33242928)
    "Rule 1: Cardio. When the zombie outbreak first hit, the first to go, for obvious reasons... were the fatties."
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mmcxii (1707574)
      You trust the advice of a jackass who's weapon of choice in the zombie apocalypse is a double barrel shotgun? Sheesh!
  • They see me (Score:4, Funny)

    by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:48PM (#33242988)
    ridin' Obese; they hatin'.
  • by qoncept (599709) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:52PM (#33243070) Homepage
    ... but not quite enough. A typical car weighs 3000lbs. The article (ok, the summary -- I didn't read the article) doesn't say what the weight gain is, but let's assume the difference between "obese" and "not obese" is 30lbs. A typical car has a drag coefficient of .4. And we're driving 45mph. There's also an unknown amount of parasitic drag in the drivetrain.

    The equation [wikimedia.org]

    Ok, I don't have the time or inclination to figure this out. But I bet .7% is pretty high.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      So, you're talking about wind resistance, which is independent of the mass of the object -- only dependent on speed, shape, and air characteristics. When cruising, your fuel consumption is dominated by this (unless you're hauling a heavy load up an incline).

      The mass-dependent fuel consumption is going to be primarily in acceleration (and hills), so the dependence of fuel economy on weight depends on driving habits.

      Of course, fuel economy depends much more strongly on driving habits than it does on weight. F

      • If wind resistance was an issue, maybe the increased fuel use is from...shall we say, less streamlined...people using on motorcyles instead of staying properly sheltered inside an SUV?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sznupi (719324)

      The first section of TFA clarifies that they looked also at the size increase of cars / tried to determine the influence of obesity on the trend of buying larger ones. After all, what size of a car / seat is comfortable to you (and as far as I can tell, there's not really any gain in going above "yup, it's comfortable" level) is quite tightly related to your shape - the photo in TFA is quite telling.

      They also touched on the increased risk of crashes - apparently not only because of car sizes, also because o

    • by cptdondo (59460)

      Obese... Let's talk obese. Obesity is a bit more than 30#; more like 150# extra. Add to that that many people have families and if they're obese, the rest of their family has a higher likelihood of being obese. So the difference, for a 2 person vehicle may be 300# in a 3,000# vehicle; about 10%. That will impact your gas mileage.

      I live across the street from one such family; the smaller of the two daughters is probably well over 250#; the larger one is, at a guess, close to 400#. Their little car can b

  • The energy crisis is all the fault of McDonalds.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      Actually, (and I know it's getting to be a tired excuse) I think that the sheer amount of corn products we consume has a lot to do with obesity rather than a specific company/brand/exercise regiment.

      • I was on a road trip through the US a year ago, and I had a Coke. Ugh! It was horrible. It tasted like corn syrup. Why do you put up with that?
        • Re:So now we know. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nschubach (922175) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:17PM (#33244400) Journal

          Because the government subsidizes corn, so it's cheaper to use than cane/beat sugar... I'm sure there's more than enough politics behind it (and now a national dependence) that it's not going to go away anytime soon.

          We've all been forced(?) into consuming HFCS in just about everything from soft drinks to breads. Recently McDs has been selling sweet tea with sugar in it and I've found that if I drink one without eating I tend to get what I can only describe as light headed and I have to eat something to calm it down. I'm sure I have diabetes creeping up on me though. Of course, that's a lot of sugar for one drink so I don't have them often. ;)

          Enjoy what you have!

  • Reality Check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by painandgreed (692585) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:57PM (#33243186)

    The study estimates that 1 billion extra gallons of fuel

    Less than what the US could save by making sure their tires are properly inflated (1.25 billion [popularmechanics.com]). let alone what we could save by cleaning out our trunks, removing our winter bags of sand, or other weight just sitting around in the car. Both are much easier than getting people to lose weight, but I doubt if they are getting done. Good luck on getting people to stop being obese to save an non-detectable part of their gas bill. For that matter, it would probably be easier just to appeal to get them to keep from diving as much (which if they walk or bike would also cut into the obese issue).

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      All of which are laughable compared to consolidating trips (or anything else that results in driving less), carpooling, and preferring to buy a more fuel-efficient car.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by natehoy (1608657)

        But all of which, when combined have more of an effect then when you do only one of them.

  • I know something (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eversor (24917) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:59PM (#33243214)

    I know something that America loves to complain about more than fuel prices. Fat Americans. Get over yourself.

  • ... if you are worried about the fuel that you save if you are less fat. Not using the car/suv/whatever will make you save even more fuel, if i.e. walk a block or 2 to get somewhere instead of going in car, or use more bycicle. Not using the car at all when there are other alternatives will usually be healthier. Taking a bus won't be as healthier as walking or going in bycicle, but still you will save fuel. And all of this works even if you are skinny.
  • by Linux_ho (205887) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:03PM (#33243278) Homepage
    Do you have any idea how much carbon I've sequestered in fat? Get off my roly poly back.
  • Yep, this matters. 1.25871×10^11 Gal Used [wikipedia.org].
  • by ZERO1ZERO (948669) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:16PM (#33243502)
    America has one of the cheapest fuel prices in the world. Stop complaining. it's about 6-7$ a gallon here.
    • by blueg3 (192743) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:25PM (#33243640)

      That'd be because you tax the hell out of it.

      • Better to shape your transportation policy when you can afford to vs screaming bloody murder when demand naturally increases the cost of fuel out of your comfort zone.

        Remember when oil was $140/barrel? And people in the US (I myself also live in the US) were demanding someone do *something* about the price of oil? Yeah. Figure out how to use less, even if that means taxing it heavily to promote people to drive more fuel efficient vehicles.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          If you choose to have that sort of transportation policy, then don't complain about the high cost of fuel.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ichijo (607641)

        That'd be because you tax the hell out of it.

        If we (Americans) were to internalize all the negative externalities into the price of gasoline, how much would it cost? Add $20 per ton of CO2 [forbes.com], which comes to 19 cents per gallon, for global warming. Add in the cost of air pollution, up to $1600 per person annually [foxnews.com]. Because gas taxes and user fees only make up 65% of the cost of the roads [subsidyscope.com], add the other 35% into the cost of gasoline. And so on.

        With all the externalities added to the price of gasoline, I think we

    • by handy_vandal (606174) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:28PM (#33243718) Homepage Journal
      The cost of (relatively) cheap gasoline? War, war, and more war. That cheap gasoline is only cheap because we're willing to bankrupt ourselves to get it.
      • by infinite9 (319274)

        The cost of (relatively) cheap gasoline? War, war, and more war. That cheap gasoline is only cheap because we're willing to bankrupt ourselves to get it.

        The price of gasoline in America is all about refinery capacity and not the price of oil. So why don't they just build more refineries? That's right.. because the price of gasoline in America is artificially controlled.

        The wars are about the control of natural resources (including oil) and the control of money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      America has one of the cheapest fuel prices in the world.

      That's bull and you know it. Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela all pay less than $1 per gallon. [cnn.com]*

      *Based on some really old CNN Money article. Prices may have changed, but I doubt very much.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Synon (847155)

      America has one of the cheapest fuel prices in the world. Stop complaining. it's about 6-7$ a gallon here.

      Cheapest? Hardly. Venezuela sells gas for 12 cents a gallon, it's cheaper than water. Each country imposes different taxes on fuel, some countries (like Venezuela) will even subsidize it. Just because our fuel is cheaper than yours doesn't mean it's some of the "cheapest in the world", far from it.

  • Stop! (Score:3, Funny)

    by snspdaarf (1314399) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:17PM (#33243506)
    Reading all these posts is making me hungry. Someone pass me another bag of cheetos and a coke.
  • This sounds like a perfect argument for regenerative braking... The easy conclusion: fat people should all drive hybrids because they store more kinetic energy
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nschubach (922175)

      I'm not sure why, but I just imagined a future where fat people are hired to sit on "merry go rounds" as human flywheels.

  • In 1960, even 1980, most everything on a vehicle was metal. Now days, so much of the vehicle is plastic. Plastic saves weight, while having some rigidity and performance. My glove box interior was actually cardboard, something that would be plastic today, due to the water-imperiousness, rigidity and what not (I am guessing weight is the same).

    Meanwhile engineering advances have lead us to extract more HP from fuel. A 350cuin engine in 1980got 180HP and 300 ftlb of tq. Now they are about 300/300. With mult

  • Adding 42 years worth of data results in big number!
  • hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:29PM (#33243728)

    In the grand scope of things, 1B gallons over that time span is piss in the ocean.

    1B gallons / 31 gallons per barrel = 32,258,064.5 barrels. Thats less than the US consumes in 2 days [doe.gov].

  • by lupinstel (792700) on Friday August 13, 2010 @02:38PM (#33243890)

    We can melt down all the fatties and use them as bio-diesel.

  • If America truly loves to complain about gas mileage then why the fuck are there still so many SUVs and big ass trucks on the road everywhere? I think America just loves to complain about obesity.

  • Let's see (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davev2.0 (1873518)
    1 billion gallons / 150,000,000 (guesstimate of the average population of the US over the 42 years) / 42 years /365 days = .000438 gallons per person per day.
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:35PM (#33244668) Journal

    Did they compare the Fat guy in his 40's who doesn;t go out much to the skinny d-bag jock type that is always driving out to bars three or more times a week to pick up women?

    The Study is flawed because it doesn't take to effect that the fat people don't go out driving as much as thin socially active people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by symes (835608)
      I would imagine that one reason fat guys are fat is precisely because they drive everywhere. Last time I was in California I made the heretical suggstion that we walk the, approx, 1 mile to the beach rather than drive. "No one walks here!" was the reply, so we stuffed the dog into the car to go to the beach to walk the dog and then drove home. Seriously. Closer to home, I see people in the gym running for ages on the treadmill - why didn't they just run to the gym rather than drive? It is madness. Someone d
  • Bicycle (Score:3, Informative)

    by jbssm (961115) on Friday August 13, 2010 @05:46PM (#33246324)
    Well, if you ride bicycle more, not only would you reduce the gas consumption by not riding a car, but you would also loose weight and spend less fuel when you actually needed to ride the car. Perhaps you could start doing that a bit. I remember Washington and NY where quite flat cities from when I was there, so it wouldn't be difficult.

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