A major insurance company (whom I won’t mention by name in a feeble attempt to stay out of trouble, but which you can easily identify with a Google search or two) has concluded (as quoted by the Chicago Tribune, which clearly had nothing better to report on):
“Obese Americans are hurting the fuel efficiency of vehicles, contributing to more than 1 billion gallons of fuel wasted each year.”
According to the infographic on the insurer’s blog (gotta have an infographic if you’re going to disseminate statistics!), 39 million gallons of fuel are used per year for every pound added on in average passenger weight.
My take: The study is an example of quantipulation at its finest.
While obesity is a real, and serious, issue, tying fuel consumption to increasing obesity rates conveniently leaves out a significant contributing factor: Demographic trends.
The baby boom between 1946 and 1964 produced a generation of roughly 77 million people.
So what happened was this: People born between 1950 and 1960 increased in age from newborns to 10 years old to 10 to 20 years old in the 1960 to 1970 period (the first ten years of the study), and so on for each of the next three decades of the study.
Not surprisingly, as people go from childhood to adulthood (and sadly, through adulthood), their weight naturally increases.
In addition to individual people’s weight gains, with more kids in the car, the overall passenger weight in the car increased.
Bottom line: The increase in passenger weight is attributable to not just obesity, but to the natural weight gains of people as they age, and to the increase in the number of passengers in the vehicle which increased throughout the study.
But please don’t let this stop you from blaming fat people for higher gas prices, and for ruining the environment.