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Environment & Science

Paradox of the gas pump: as cars get lighter, drivers get heavier


The second day of the year is probably not the best time to talk about weight gain. It’s not like so many of us aren’t sprawled out on a couch today, watching even more football and consuming the last of those delicious holiday calories.

But it’s more than just holiday weight afflicting your fellow Americans. Thanks to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we learn that the average American male weighs almost 30 pounds more than in 1960. Women have packed on close to an additional 25 pounds in the same timeframe.

OK, fine, you say. It’s a sign of prosperity and not working in movies or TV. It’s our American right to haul around those a few extra inches of craft beer and gourmet burgers. Which is true, until the more environmentally conscious among us realize those prosperity pounds are directly causing us to eliminate any strides in automakers like Ford, Hyundai and Chevrolet have made in creating lighter, less fuel efficient vehicles (Ford was able to dump 30 pounds in their automatic transmission system alone). Simply put, we’re gaining the weight our cars are losing.

The way the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emission Laboratory in Ann Arbor, MI, figures it, the added weight of American drivers can reduce fuel economy by 1 percent. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 1 percent of the gasoline delivered here last year was in the ballpark of 153 million gallons.

There’s certainly no easy fix to remedy what is both a health issue as well as an environmental one. It is food for thought (pun fully intended) as well look forward to a New Year and new ways to improve the world we live in. But I am inspired to walk to the grocery store for my football snacks, anyway.