Harper’s magazine reports that Americans burn an extra 938 million gallons of gasoline each year because we’re too fat.
That estimate of how much the nation’s chubbuses are wasting in gas comes from a study by Sheldon Jacobson, professor of computer science at the University of Illinois and director of the school’s simulation and optimization laboratory.
“The key finding,” reports Dr. Jacobson, “is that nearly 1 billion gallons of fuel are consumed each year because of the average weight gain of people living in the United States since 1960 — nearly three times the total amount of fuel consumed by all passenger vehicles each day based on current driving habits.”
On average, we’re up in weight per capita in the U.S. since 1960 by 24 pounds, the size of a nice Thanksgiving turkey.
Officially, the federal government says that 62 percent of us are “overweight,” and probably 99 percent of us would say the government’s too fat, so we’re more than even. It’s fat city, all over.
At the pump, the extra fat is costing $7.7 million a day, or $2.8 billion a year, according to a University of Illinois news release, noting that these increased gas expenses are “linked directly to the extra drain of body weight on fuel economy.”
Dr. Jacobson didn’t skip those tubby kids in the back seat with their M&M’s. In tying the number of pounds of fat to poor mileage, he counted drivers as well as passengers.
What he didn’t count in his 938-million-gallon estimate is the impact of those two million drivers who operate America’s heavy trucks and tractor-trailers, those guys on the turnpike with a bucket of KFC extra-crispy on the seat and a two-foot hoagie from Pizza King. Jacobson’s study, funded by the National Science Foundation, considered only the effect of blimpos in cars and light trucks used for noncommercial purposes.
Dr. Jacobson’s estimation of the societal cost of fat in gallons may have also underestimated the size of problem in a couple different areas. I don’t see anything in his study about how bigger people might tend to buy bigger cars, cars that go fewer miles per gallon no matter what the weight of their occupants. Just on anecdotal evidence, I don’t see a lot of super-sized people stuffed into those environmentally-friendly MINI Coopers.
There’s also no estimate in the study about how food addicts might drive more, such as heading off at midnight to Dunkin’ Donuts for a quick fix while their skinny neighbors are tucked under the covers, or driving to Foodland more times than their scrawny neighbors because they’re always running out of food.
In any case, nearly a billion gallons a year is bad enough. “Beyond public health,” explains Jacobson, “being overweight has many other socioeconomic implications.”
It’s the public’s business, in other words, if you’re too fat. A generously proportioned physique equals less gas mileage, more oil imports, and more money exported to al Qaeda.
With socioeconomic impacts on the table, there’s nothing on one’s table that isn’t everybody’s business, nothing that’s beyond the reach of the planners, the regulators and the socioeconomic administrators.
George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf III, for instance, argues that plump patients should consider suits against doctors who didn’t provide sufficient warnings about the downside of obesity and that parents of fat kids could well be fair game at the courthouse if they didn’t sufficiently curb enough trips to Dairy Queen.
Or food companies can be made the target, like when two teenage girls in Brooklyn — combined weight, 440 pounds — sued McDonald’s, claiming that the company made them fat. Or we could make 7-Elevens close at 2 a.m., like taverns, so no one could sneak out for a Snickers in the middle of the night.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online