Supersized Drivers

Does fat cause global warming?


Fat people are responsible for global warming! Or so claims a study by two researchers at the University of Illinois in the October/November Engineering Economist. Industrial engineer Sheldon Jacobson and his doctoral student Laura McLay report that our cars and trucks are burning more gas per mile to haul our larger carcasses about the planet.

Since 1960, Americans have gained an average of 24 pounds. As a consequence, the researchers calculate, we burn nearly a billion gallons more gas than we would if we trimmed down to our Eisenhower-era weights. More gas means more emissions, and more emissions mean warming.

Of course, the fact that today's automobiles get about double the gas mileage of cars in the 1960s counteracts any contribution to global warming that our extra avoirdupois may entail. Nevertheless, Jacobson and McLay recommend that we cool the planet by shrinking ourselves: eating less and walking more. Before long, fat taxes might be justified as a planetary cooling measure.