By on February 13, 2011

Yes, and yes, says a study of the Resources for the Future (RFF) institute. The Washington think tank’s study examined “the unexplored link between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and vehicle demand” for bigger and more gas guzzling cars.

RFF brands itself as a “nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research.” Their study found “that the prevalence of overweight and obesity has a sizable effect on the fuel economy of new vehicles demanded. A 10 percentage point increase in the rate of overweight and obesity among the population reduces the average miles per gallon (MPG) of new vehicles demanded by 2.5 percent, an effect that requires a 30 cent increase in gasoline prices to counteract.” Basically what they are saying: Fat people choose fat cars. More fat people, more fat cars.

Shame on you if your belly keeps you from reading the numbers on the bathroom scale, you are driving up the cost of our gas, fatso. If you would eat less, we would pay less. If the study is correct.

The study is a bit dated (August 2009), and with names such as Shanjun Li, Yanyan Liu, and Junjie Zhang, the authors of the study may be a bit biased. Alternating between China and Japan, most foreigners (myself included) appear fat to me, or debu-debu as they say in Japan. I stumbled across this study because of the serendipity of two stories that appeared this weekend.

The top story of Automotive News [sub] is “Ford leads the way as automakers embrace weight-loss.” In their cars, not amongst their customers.  “Weight is absolutely critical,” said Ford CEO Alan Mulally for saving gas and in order to reach CAFE rules that require a fleet average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. There already is talk about a 62-mpg target for 2025. Ford’s diet regimen clashes with another trend.

Over at AOL Autos, there is an article titled “Super Size Me? How About My Car?” It muses about the buying habits of the Generation XXL: “Extra-large Americans get up and go to work like anyone else and they need vehicles to get them there and back. Is the auto industry paying attention?” In that story, interviewed carmakers deny that they target obese people per se. Instead, they indeed pay attention to what the customer wants. “We’re finding that people say, ‘We want more space,’” said Sage Marie, Manager of Honda Product Planning.

If people want bigger cars, they get bigger cars. AOL Autos complains that there are “few reliable statistics on which cars are most accommodating for larger people.” As we soon shall see, they did not look hard enough. All AOL found was a list compiled last year by Consumer Reports that recommends “several good cars that are best for larger drivers,” as CR said.

Oddly enough, the cars all hail from the lands of lithe, from Japan and Korea:

Make/model Price CR overall mpg
Honda Accord $22,795 23
Honda Odyssey $32,610 19
Hyundai Azera $31,670 20
Kia Rondo $20,655 21
Subaru Forester XT Limited $28,860 20

This is a list of cars CR thinks hefty people should buy. It’s not a list of what they buy. That led to the study mentioned above. The authors claim that they have irrefutable proof that people who can’t stop eating choose cars with a serious drinking disorder.

The greater the share of fat people, the greater the share of gas guzzling light trucks. Shazamm!

What’s more, RFF tells us (using EPA data) that the fuel economy of all new vehicles (green line) peaked in 1987. It was all downhill from there until a slight pick-up in 2005. It must have been all those non-HWP people buying big rigs.

The study reminds us that “medical cost of overweight and obesity accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998 and reached $78.5 billion, half of which were through financially-distressed Medicare and Medicaid systems.” While people increased in heft, there emerged “a seemingly unrelated but equally significant trend: The dramatic increase in the number of large passenger vehicles on American roads.” Which of course make us dependent on oil from “politically unstable” countries, fill the air with pollution, and give us skin cancer through the ozone hole.

Says the study: “Our simulation results show that had the prevalence of overweight and obesity stayed at the level in 1981 (about 20 percentage points lower than that in 2005), the average MPG of new vehicles demanded in 2005 would have been about 4.6 percent higher, everything else being equal. The improved fuel efficiency implies total gasoline savings of about 138 million barrels and reduction in CO2 emissions of 58 million tons over the lifetime of these vehicles.”

The theory is being put in question by a commentator in a discussion forum. When someone recommended a Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado as the perfect ride for the circumferentially challenged, the reply was:

“Gotta climb UP into those… “

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

76 Comments on “Are Fat People Driving Up The Price Of Gas? Are They The Source Of The Greenhouse Effect?...”

  • avatar

    Private passanger cars are not the problem.  It’s when flying, and stuck between two fat slobs…uh…er…I mean two “larger passengers” that it is an issue.  That’s why I like flying to China.  Usually, you don’t find too many fat Asians heading for HK.

    • 0 avatar

      For most of the time H. sapiens have been on the planet, fat and sugar (as well as salt)–all necessary for people, but only in small quantities–have been extremely hard to come by in most parts of the world. So we evolved a craving for both, in order to insure that we would get enough of each to survive. In the last 100 years or so, both fat and sugar have become incredibly abundant, and food processors have taken advantage of peoples’ cravings by inventing new foods that are virtually irresistible to most people because they have two, or even three of these ingredients in large proportions. The food companies are doing what companies do naturally in capitalist societies. (And no, I’m absolutely not saying we should get rid of capitalism; that would be a disaster.)
      Our government has abetted this trend by subsidizing corn, which is the source of our major sweetener, corn syrup.
      All of this is why obesity and diabetes are more prevalent than ever before.

    • 0 avatar

      So now that corn is around $7/bushel we should all be getting skinny soon right? I don’t understand why corn has become America’s latest scapegoat, but its hilarious. If corn syrup was banned tomorrow we’d still have no problem getting our sugar fix from beets and cane. Even with the tariffs on imported cane and the corn subsidies that everyone gets so angry over,  a five pound bag of raw sugar costs what – a couple bucks? Anywhere that food is as abundant and incredibly cheap as it is in America people will get fatter. The same thing that’s happened to our waistlines will eventually happen in nations that are developing right now.

  • avatar

    Call in the liberals! Surely there’s something they can ban to fix this.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll bite.
      I’d say there’s a fairly reasonable correlation between obesity and the prevalence of processed food in general, including fast-food. As such we should expect to see a general leveling of obesity rates between nations as processed food and fast-food gains momentum worldwide, and thus an increasing demand for larger vehicles worldwide.
      So, to reduce gas prices and lessen the negative impacts on health and the environment caused by excessive fuel consumption, we should focus on regulating processed food production and fast food consumption. How’s that? Of course, extreme libertarians will be up in arms as soon as this is mentioned because they always seem to want have their cake and eat it too…

    • 0 avatar

      Call in the conservatives! Surely there’s something they can bailout to fix this.

    • 0 avatar

      Philosophil has a point. Ever since the Quarterpounder infested Japan, the formerly beautifully skinny girls are getting pocha-pocha (chubby).  The same thing is happening in China to some degree. China’s saving grace is that they are into KFCs (each day, one new KFC in China) which outnumber Burger Kings by a wide margin.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I can almost smell the smugness from here.

    • 0 avatar

      By the way, I should add here that I could benefit from losing 20-30 lbs myself, so I’m not excluding myself from this (though at least I can say I do have a strong preference for reasonably healthy home-cooked meals). The main problem where I currently live (and this is a nod to some of the points raised by dastanley below) is that there are no sidewalks and the curb is about 2 ft. of gravel followed by a 6′ ditch, so my tradition of going for at least two walks a day has been hampered somewhat.
      As Bertel has begun to observe, the phenomena of obesity will very likely become more global as fast-food habits and the general reliance on cheap and easy high-sugar, high-fat processed foods spreads from region to region.

    • 0 avatar

      philosophil has it right. As (or if) access to extra calories becomes more available, other countries’ populations will , um, expand. It’s hardwired – eat what you can when you can, because you may not find anything tomorrow or the next day. The lizard-level brain needs rewiring.
      We do need to move beyond consuming high quantity low quality food, but think for a moment how we got here. Not that long ago, malnutrition meant starvation. Now it means too much fatty food that lacks essential nutrients. Which would you prefer? The problem has shifted in less than a lifetime. We’ll work it out.

    • 0 avatar
      Darth Lefty

      Obesity is caused by advertising.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I reject the idea that average overweight people shifted the market from small cars to light trucks.  Small cars were never that popular in the US and the most popular car, the Toyota Camry, has become more fuel efficient even as it has grown big enough for super-sized people.  Instead, I blame banning children from the front seat combined with different CAFE rules for trucks for the market shift.
      Instead of restricting consumer choice, how about reducing US farm and food subsidies?  US taxpayers pay taxes so the US government can transfer about $20 billion per year to agribusiness. Corn is the big winner.
      This is on top of the mandate that consumers in EPA non-attainment areas buy ethanol with their gasoline and the $0.51 per gallon blender credit for using ethanol in fuel.
      US taxpayers also help pay for about $80 billion per year in food subsidies for food stamps, school lunches, and WIC.
      Can’t remember the last time I saw a skinny farmer or food stamp recipient.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      @Bertel: indeed – the cross-straits nickname for what used to be “Daikon radish leg” is now “Elephant leg”…

    • 0 avatar

      You know, I often wonder how small one’s intellectual manhood has to be to feel so weak, so threatened, so ineffectual and so utterly disenfranchised by ‘dem Librals that it is that it becomes a second nature verbal ejaculate to blame them for everything.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Darth
      Advertising is a huge component, but it’s not the entire picture.  There are places in the world in developing countries that are seeing huge upswings in what are often called the diseases of affluence with little to nothing in the way of an advertising bogeyman to hang the blame upon.
      The human brain is in many ways hardwired to do some very counterproductive things in an environment of abundance.  Here’s an example – chocolate milk.  When given the choice between plain white milk and chocolate milk, children will the overwhelming majority will go for the chocolate milk.  This isn’t an advertising thing. Kids like sugar.  There little brains and their little tongues come out of the womb preprogrammed to consume vast quantities of the stuff if given the chance.  Which American society is more than glad to provide them.

  • avatar

    Why stop the blame at cars? Fat people where bigger clothing and bigger couches and sofas which all require textiles which use petroleum.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Reminds me of an article I read in Hot Rod Magazine a few years back when they were detailing for their readership how stripping weight out of their cars would save them a few tenths in the quarter mile.  It then reminded them how much faster their cars would be if they lost a few pounds on the driver. 

    • 0 avatar

      Bicyclists also learn this rather quickly. You can spend hundreds to reduce the weight of a bike by no more than a few pounds, or you can spend almost nothing and shed a few pounds from the rider. Obviously, at some point doing both will yield maximum results, but that’s best reserved for those in the Lance Armstrong league.

  • avatar

    Many, many years ago I used to frequent small puddle-jumper airlines with tiny aircraft. It was normal to weigh passengers in order to assign seats and balance the plane.
    I speculate that airlines could take the lead here by charging passengers and their luggage according to their weight.  For example, the first 50 kilos could be priced to cover fixed expenses and everything over that (both passenger and luggage) would simply be priced by the kilo.
    The funny thing is that people keep flying no matter what airlines do (reduce meals, charge high fees for changes, super-price checked baggage, etc.) so I figure airlines could actually get away with this.
    The price of extra weight (whether due to obesity of just always carrying lots of stuff) is already priced into the cost of operating vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      When I flew either the BE1900 turboprop or CRJ Canadair Regional Jet, either the 200s or 900s, for a southwestern based regional airline, we didn’t have time to weigh each passenger, especially when flying up to 10 legs a day in the BE1900 (my record was 12 legs in one 8 hour max flying shift).  Each adult was averaged at 200 lbs., checked bags averaged at 25 lbs, and carry ons averaged at 10 lbs.  If a 10 lbs. carry on couldn’t fit under the seat or over head bin in the cabin, it got moved to the back and now weighed 25 lbs.  The flights were spaced so close, we barely had time to take a leak, get fuel, get dispatch release, get ATIS, clearance, load up, get a quick weight and balance (hence the average weights), fling the paperwork out the window to the ramper, do checklists, fire up #2, #1, release brake, and roll.  The BE 1900s had 19 seats – not that every seat could be filled if heavy on fuel, etc.  The CRJs had from 50 to 86 seats depending on whether it was the 200, 700, or 900 series.  Passengers are already hassled enough when flying.  They would go ballistic if a requirement to weigh them was put into place.  Perhaps on a part 135 charter flight, the weighing would be in order, or if carrying an NFL team or a sumi wrestling team anywhere.  But for most revenue part 121 carrier flights with an average mix of male and female, large and small, the average weights did ok enough.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, that had been tried. Ireland’s low cost carrier Ryan Air proposed a “fat tax” (get it?) and one in three passengers voted for it. It turned out to be a publicity stunt, just like the previous one where they floated the idea of putting coin operated toilets on the planes.

    • 0 avatar

      Each adult was averaged at 200 lbs., checked bags averaged at 25 lbs, and carry ons averaged at 10 lbs.

      I know mechanical issues were the primary factor, but wasn’t this discussed some in the investigation of the fatal BE1900 crash at RDU a while back?  With a full pax load, the aircraft was significantly overweight based on actual passenger weights rather than the FAA figure that was calculated in the 1950s.  IIRC.

    • 0 avatar

      I recently read an article about how Kevin Smith (the movie and comic book guy) was denied boarding on a SW air flight for being so damn obese, he was blocking the aisle.  His first reaction was indignation and anger.  His longer term reaction was shame, which lead to him losing some 65 lbs.
      We don’t shame fat, obese enough in the states.  We’ve done it to smokers.  Why not obese people?  They’re just as costly as smokers.

    • 0 avatar

      I know mechanical issues were the primary factor, but wasn’t this discussed some in the investigation of the fatal BE1900 crash at RDU a while back?  With a full pax load, the aircraft was significantly overweight based on actual passenger weights rather than the FAA figure that was calculated in the 1950s.  IIRC.

      You mean the fatal crash that happened in CLT (Charlotte, NC) in January 2003 with a Beech 1900D with 100% fatalities?  I was also flying an identical BE1900D from PHX-HII (Phoenix to Lake Havasu) that morning right when that happened.  Turns out the elevator was misrigged, meaning that the elevator trim wheel was turned completely to one of the stops but still not allowing the plane to fly fully loaded with an aft CG without using massive amounts of forward force on the yoke just to fly and climb in a normal manner without over rotating.  This problem didn’t show up on earlier flights on that particular plane earlier that day because of light loads and CGs that were in the middle of the envelope.  When the BE1900D is fully loaded with 19 PAX and bags, like the CLT plane was, the CG is naturally towards the back of the envelope – but still legally within the envelope.  And having an aft CG (but still within limits) is actually better for cruising efficiency and faster true airspeed for a given power setting.  But with a massively misrigged elevator, like the CLT plane was, in a normal nose high take off/climb attitude, the CG shifted with rotation, bags fell over the net from cargo hold one into cargo hold two, which is all the way in the back, further exacerbating the problem, and put the plane into an unrecoverable stall/spin.  Later, the company gave us all mandatory sim training for just that sort of thing.  The trick was to bank very steeply just after rotation and positive climb in either direction, unloading the wings and elevator, cut engine power, ensure gear down (flaps optional at that point), and attempt to land on a flat area.  Easy in the sim when no one dies.  Raytheon maintenance in WV is to thank for that.  To this day, they insist that they are completely blameless.

      BTW, before the accident, the average PAX weights were 190 for adult males, 180 for adult females, 80 for children 12 and under, and nothing for lap children under 2.  After the accident, it became 200 for all adults, still 80 for children 12 and under and still zero for lap children under 2.  Bags stayed at 25 lbs in the back and 10 in the coat closet and cabin.

      Now, back to cars.

  • avatar

    I guess there’s many reasons for the trend in weight gain – these are all empirical observations for the four corners, including Farmington, Kirtland, and Shiprock NM.  I have no hard data:

    – Convenience stores on practically every corner in town.
    – Fast food on practically every corner.
    – Pedestrian and bicycle unfriendly town – you’ll get run over by the oil field workers going 90 mph in their company F-250s with the tall orange flags.
    – Labor saving devices, like the neighbors who use a riding mower to “mow” a .25 acre lot of mostly dirt and weeds.
    – 2 Walmarts, K-mart, and Target full of junk food in F-town.  Always full of customers.
    – Redneck mentality of laughing at the folk who run or try to work out in some way.  These same inbreds drive to numerous city parks, and stay inside their pickups, never getting out to walk or even stretch their legs.  Why? 
    – General lethargy and laziness (could the higher altitudes of 5500+ feet have anything to do with that?)
    – Rural mentality that you just have to have a vee-hick-al to go anywhere, even if just down the hill and back a quarter mile to get a loaf of bread.
    – Pit bull dog mentality of “protecting” your quarter acre piece of desert and broken down trailer.  Dogs trained to attack any passing pedestrians regardless of pedestrian intentions.  Pedestrians, naturally, don’t get out on foot much.  Must drive down the street to get a gallon of milk or check the mail.
    – Fill in the blank…

    • 0 avatar

      – Fill in the blank…
      OK. A left of center popular culture that ignores the concept of personal responsibility.

    • 0 avatar

      -Fill in the blank…
      -Hours spent sitting in front of the television/video game system/computer. Video game consoles became very popular after 1980, correlating with the obesity data. Why go outside and ride your bike when you can slap in “California Games” and “ride” a virtual bike! Why run and jump outside when you can make a little man in a raccoon suit fly! I lost 45 pounds in about 7 months when I gave up on video games.

  • avatar

    All tongue in cheek, but really America needs a wakeup call.  When I went to my first NASCAR race in Martinsville, Virginia, the biggest memory was not the race (which was great), nor the hot dog that stained the bun pink (which was not so – uh – great).  No, it was watching the people strain to walk up the bleachers to get into their seat.  No offense meant to anyone, but as I watched this scene unfold in front of me, I couldn’t help but think about the medical time bomb that is going to explode in 20 years.  I have never seen so many unfit people in my life.  The irony was that most of the people required more space on the bleacher than was allocated for one person. I was appalled. I actually ran up the bleachers, feeling as smug as a Prius owner in pickup country. If that is a snapshot of America, well we are in trouble.  Even my nieces and nephews, all of whom are being brought up in families that have no problem affording quality food are at least flabby.  None are fit.  Zero.  So I can’t say that this is just due to “poor” people making bad choices.  I really think the fact that kids just don’t care to do anything active anymore is a big part of the problem.
    Solutions?  Don’t know.  Education only gos so far.  Limiting choices may have an effect, but the baggage that comes with it is unplatable.  Maybe making the unfit pay higher healthcare premiums might help, just as my gym membership is partially subsidized by my insurance company.  At least it limits how much of the burden for poor choices gets dumped on those who take care of themselves.  For those who have medical conditions, I don’t mean to dump on you.  Please don’t report me to the NAAFP.  But the vast majority of obese folks are that way due to lifestyle choice.  And frankly, I don’t want to pay for it. /rant over.

    • 0 avatar

      For those who have medical conditions, I don’t mean to dump on you.

      There is no medical condition that creates fat out of thin air.  They get fat exactly the same way as everybody else, by eating more calories than they burn off.  I can’t count the times I’ve heard “it’s glandular” or “condition X prevents me from exercising.”  I’ve never seen it prevent them from stuffing their face with even more carbs.

    • 0 avatar

      Regarding having those who are overweight pay higher insurance premiums, how far do you extend that to other high risk lifestyle choices?  Drug use and alcohol abuse both increase the likelihood of health issues down the road, so does anyone whose ever been cited for possession, ever been to rehab, or has a weed-card (in the states that allow those) also get the higher premiums?  How about anyone who has ever had an STD, after all, that points towards a promiscuous lifestyle that could lead to health issues.  Also, athletes are more likely to break bones and pull muscles/ligaments/etc, so do you charge professional athletes more, or do you also include amateurs?  Does the guy who plays softball on the weekends on his company team fit into the amateur athlete category?
      Healthcare is messed up enough as it is, and far too expensive for everyone.  I don’t argue that obesity is a problem in the US, and I could stand to lose some weight myself.  I don’t think that allowing healthcare companies to start charging more based on a persons current lifestyle is a good precedent though, the slope is way too slippery, and insurance companies will use it as an excuse to start gouging everyone for more money any chance they get.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, participation in athletic sports is the number one alarm bell ringer for medical insurance companies. There is such a rich field of possible orthapedic injuries and associated surgeries (often leading to a succession of further surgeries to correct later problems).

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe making the unfit pay higher healthcare premiums might help, just as my gym membership is partially subsidized by my insurance company. 

      In much of the private sector, health care deductibles and co-pays for those with chronic conditions can now easily hit an out of pocket max of $5-10K (on incomes of $50-70K). Most of these people have horrible health and eating habits.
      An HR professional told me that it’s imperfect, but essentially many firms don’t want unhealthy people. They are giving them incentives to get healthy or find other work. And they are telling their healthy workers to take your health seriously.
      Does this suck for those with chronic conditions not brought about by lifestyle? Absolutely.

    • 0 avatar

      I think people who have fat folds covering their knees should be banned from the fried food sections of Chinese buffets. Drive-up windows should be relegated to HOV use; less than two people in the car, no food for you. They should also not be allowed to have handicapped placards; conversely, they should be parked at the far end of the parking lot so they can get some exercise. They should be banned from using the motorized wheelchairs in shopping centers, as well.
      /Semi-serious rant. This stuff would never fly, unfortunately.

  • avatar

    I dunno, seems fishy. Did we fully check the provenance of the study this time? Are you sure that’s not Top Gear China?

    • 0 avatar

      There is a link going to RFF, “founded in 1952, RFF was created at the recommendation of William Paley, then head of the Columbia Broadcasting System, who had chaired a presidential commission that examined whether the United States was becoming overly dependent on foreign sources of important natural resources and commodities. RFF became the first think tank devoted exclusively to natural resource and environmental issues.”

  • avatar
    The Wedding DJ

    By the way, the girl in the picture is not obese, but HOT!  Yes, she is…

  • avatar

    Geez – I caught the end of “Hairspray” last night, when tuning into the local news. Apparently, obesity has been a problem since the 1950’s, but it doesn’t seem to affect one’s singing and dancing much.

  • avatar

    Obesity is a big problem in this country not b/c they need to drive plus sized cars to fit their and their families girth – but the health problems it creates in the short and long runs.  I’m pretty close to my optimal weight but I spend time exercising and watching my diet making sure my weight does not become a problem.  I do this so I can fit in go karts and racecars and then have the stamina when racing.  I’ve even overcome my biggest weakness and have stopped drinking soda.

    • 0 avatar

      I too have, more or less, stopped drinking pop (sorry that’s a regional thing and I can’t force myself to use the other word :D), and haven’t really missed it. I’ve been working on losing some weight since August 2010 and have seen great success. I wasn’t exactly fat, but was getting sort of fluffy and didn’t like it.

  • avatar

    Colorado has the thinnest people in America. We also have the highest per-capita consumption of SUV and trucks. So much for that theory.

    • 0 avatar

      The first claim is pretty much meaningless without some numbers (e.g., thinnest by how much and how thin in comparison to people from other regions and countries).
      As for the second point, no one denied that geography and climactic conditions might not have some role to play in vehicle choice.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d wager that British Columbia has the fittest population in Canada, and with the exception of Vancouver and environs, pickups and SUVs are standard issue here. Part of the reason, also the case in Colorado I suspect, is that these vehicles are ideal for the climate and lifestyle in our mountainous snowy home. My personal recreation involves snowshoes, cross country skis and a canoe, all of which can be transported in just about anything. But you would be astounded by the number of snowmobiles, quads, jetskis and boats people around here have and use. You can’t transport that stuff in an Accord, and like it or not that’s how a lot of people “exercise” these days. But hey, at least they are outside…

    • 0 avatar

      And I have noticed a lot of scrawny women driving SUVs and fat people driving sedans.

      As another poster pointed out, big people aren’t as likely to want to climb up into a vehicle as to just want to plop down into one.

      As to the lack of accomodations for walkers, we have hike-bike trails all over the Omaha area that have been treated as bicycle raceways by the less-than-10%-bodyfat crowd who actually write letters to the editor decrying the fact that they are expected to share with the slower and fatter among us. And a lot of these trails have no shade and few benches for beginning exercisers’ rest.

  • avatar

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    10 steps to a thinner and happier America!
    1) Horse chow replaces bacon and eggs for breakfast. What is horsechow you say? Why it’s the original granola. Oats, olive oil and honey mixed together and eaten with a sliced apple. Plenty of fiber, vitamins and reasonably low calories.
    2) Fast food taxes – Yes you can have your cake and eat it too! As long as we don’t have to pay for it down the road. Consumers and fast food giants will finally have a golden opportunity to balance out the cost of externalities. Are the costs double the current prices? triple? Who knows but I’m sure it can be figured out via a non-partisan group.
    3) Cigarette and beer taxes – This one’s obvious.
    4) ‘Health’ based insurance – Are you physically fit? Do you have a healthy diet and work out quite a bit? Why step right this way! We have a health plan that will help you pinch pennies and pounds.
    5) Absolute takeover of school lunch program – No more mystery meats, McRibs, or ‘orange drink’. The school lunch program should be taken over by some type of non-profit group. Our children’s health is too important to be left to the vices of the dairy and meat lobbying groups.
    6) Phys ed is mandatory – Doesn’t matter if you’re a jock or a 98 pound weakling. We can not pay for you all the friggin’ time. Phys ed is required every semester, high school, college, and beyond. And no, bowling is not a sport.
    7) Finally we need to encourage athletic activities that are more focused on self-development than competition. A long list of sports and activities are available for that purpose.
    8) Vitamins – I don’t see anything wrong with offering a daily vitamin in much the same way the state already offers free lunch.
    9) Phys Ed Graduation Requirement – This one would have to take time since so many kids in today’s school system would be beyond hope.
    10) Put warning labels on fast food, sodas, and other related junk foods. Not that folks don’t already know about the health consequences. But I would encourage something of this nature.

    “Warning: This artificial crap is responsible for a long list of disorders including obesity, colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, heart failure, strokes, cancer, hyperactivity, destruction of the rain forest, and it also gives billions to predatory old executives who don’t give a flip about you. You may not die if you eat it. But it will definitely make you a bit more ugly not to mention it may give you acne, hemorrhoids, constipation, stomach cramps, tremors, nausea, and cancer. Are you sure you want to eat this?

    • 0 avatar

      All good points, actually (though I personally would be very wary about #4).

    • 0 avatar

      While we’re at it, let’s find some non-partisan groups to decide what car is appropriate for somebody’s use, and let’s have that same non-partisan group set pricing on those similar to a public regulated utility at 3%, so we can stick it to the weasels who seek to turn $300 into $3,000 in obscene profits by screwing the consumer over on some auction-alley rust bucket with a paint job and an oil change?
      I’m a little amazed at the clamor for totalitarian controls that this thread has brought out.

      With your “horsechow” idea: Have you considered that high-carbohydrate diets have proven to be fat-gaining for people, and your government has been advocating high-carbohydrate (probably as a sop to the same Iowa farmers) diets in schools since at least the Food Pyramid of the early 90s, and kids keep getting fatter?  With these calls for mass regulation sounding like “scientific management” of things, let’s not forget that policy advice from science in the 1970s would have urged us to salt the polar is cap to avoid global cooling.

      Vive la choice – Isn’t it great that you get to live a life that lets you pursue your desires and choices? Isn’t it great that, by and large, America’s consumers of autos get a wide selection of vehicles, and they get a market response to make things as tastes change?  The world in general and automobiledom in particular would be a considerable less enthusiastic place with more totalitarian “non-partisan groups” making decisions for us!

      Edit: Missed the word “profit”, and apparently paragraph breaks look different between editors. And, this is not meant to be a personal attack, Mr. Lang, I love your column — but, come on – it’s so easy to say you love absolute government power when it’s not your ox being gored.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      “While we’re at it, let’s find some non-partisan groups to decide what car is appropriate for somebody’s use, and let’s have that same non-partisan group set pricing on those similar to a public regulated utility at 3%, so we can stick it to the weasels who seek to turn $300 into $3,000 in obscene profits by screwing the consumer over on some auction-alley rust bucket with a paint job and an oil change?”
      Where did this tangent begin and end?
      “With your “horsechow” idea: Have you considered that high-carbohydrate diets have proven to be fat-gaining for people, and your government has been advocating high-carbohydrate (probably as a sop to the same Iowa farmers) diets in schools since at least the Food Pyramid of the early 90s, and kids keep getting fatter?  With these calls for mass regulation sounding like “scientific management” of things, let’s not forget that policy advice from science in the 1970s would have urged us to salt the polar is cap to avoid global cooling.”
      It’s the quality of the food you eat that effects your long-term health. Brown rice is high in ‘carbs’ along with the oatmeal already mentioned. Neither one will encourage obesity because they are whole foods. By the way, the ‘horsechow’ was a personal suggestion.
      “Vive la choice – Isn’t it great that you get to live a life that lets you pursue your desires and choices? Isn’t it great that, by and large, America’s consumers of autos get a wide selection of vehicles, and they get a market response to make things as tastes change?  The world in general and automobiledom in particular would be a considerable less enthusiastic place with more totalitarian “non-partisan groups” making decisions for us!”
      Hate to tell you. But you already do have ‘non-partisan groups’ making decisions as to what cars can be sold in the United States.

      “Edit: Missed the word “profit”, and apparently paragraph breaks look different between editors. And, this is not meant to be a personal attack, Mr. Lang, I love your column — but, come on – it’s so easy to say you love absolute government power when it’s not your ox being gored.”
      No, just the opposite. I despise any entity that seeks to have me pay for their corrosive behaviors. Unfathomable government debts go right along with the predators par excellence as far as I’m concerned.
      The fast food and junk food institutions primarily target kids. I do think that the 10000+ MBA’s employ have enjoyed considerable success and profit. But there are costs and I don’t want to have any American on the financial hook for them.
      The best way to offset externalities that society should not pay for is to monetize them so that the user and producer of ‘that cost’ compensate for it.
      You wanna eat crap? Fine. That’s your decision. I don’t want to pay for it. I don’t want any citizens to pay for it other than you and the saintly souls marketing it.

    • 0 avatar

      Why is the answer to other people’s behavior always higher taxes and more government handholding for me?
      Punish the wrongdoer for a change.

    • 0 avatar

      3) Cigarette and beer taxes – This one’s obvious.
      That’s just cruel. Instead, can’t I just sign something that says to euthanize me once I get lung cancer or liver disease?

      Plus, I think tobacco and alcohol are a major reason why I’m not fat.

      • 0 avatar

        As a matter of interest. how do taxes on alcohol and tobacco sit with the ‘Pursuit of happiness’. I know that both make a considerable contribution to my state of happiness.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yeah cause taxes on things that are fun aren’t high enough, jeeze.  (Says the 4 cigar a month smoker.) 

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with your pursuit of eliminating all externalities is this:
      If the solution for all externalities is having the government tax it away in any level of government in the United States, you are creating a vehicle for further government growth and abuse under the guise of wanting to help people.  Who’s going to be “in” when it comes to manipulating the tax administration except for the established businesses, the sleaziest and slimiest?  It perpetuates cartels, not free markets.
      Saying it as an alternative suggestion, not as something that I’d want to debate here because this is TTAC, not TTAHC:  If there’s a hospital in the county that will take you, why does every hospital in the county have to take you without ability to pay?  Your reward for healthy living was a great idea, and more in line with the “leave me and mine alone” mentality I came to expect and respect from your previous columns of not wanting to subsidize behavior that’s odious to you.  There are ways of eliminating shared cost without making it be more government taxation.
      The tangent started here:
      Absolute takeover of school lunch program – No more mystery meats, McRibs, or ‘orange drink’.  The school lunch program should be taken over by some type of non-profit group.
      In that one, you say that all food service programs should be run out of business and placed into something sounding like a British QUANGO — government funded non-profit.  My reply was the same logic — some scoundrels serving crap — not everyplace serves crap — not every used car salesman is a thief selling whitewashed titles with some petty improvements to the appearance — but those sure exist, and doesn’t it tie up our courts processing lawsuits by aggrieved consumers, doesn’t it raise our insurance rates when those break down on the road causing accidents.  It was an application of your call — an absolute takeover — to your industry and livelihood.  You particularly attacked the profit motive of food service operators — I’m just saying that many people like to impugn a profit motive when it’s not their profit motive.
      Hate to tell you. But you already do have ‘non-partisan groups’ making decisions as to what cars can be sold in the United States.
      It’s no news to me that we have too many “non-partisan” groups making decisions about our lives.  (I do not believe that term has any but ironic meaning; I believe that means you have people lying about their bias.)  We don’t need more.  Your call was for the creation of a new one.
      And that’s why I love car articles from outside the United States: You get to see the beautiful craziness of people innovating in their space without as-established government-backed cartels, and you see wacky things like the competitors for the best cheap car in India.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I don’t think you are getting the essence of this. You are saying that the government should not have some type of punitive measure to discourage the consumption of ‘poisons’.
      I disagree. Taxing and regulating this trash is the only way you can minimize it’s impact and limit the damage solely to the consumer and the producer of that good.
      I don’t want to be on the financial hook for the marketing of addictions to a young and gullible audience. Neither do you. We both agree on that position.
      But none of us can realistically stop people (and corporations) from being stupid and destructive. But we shouldn’t have to pay for it. That cost should be relegated to the idiot who chose that path along with the douchebags that promoted it.
      Taxing that specific good hits the consumer and producer directly. The consumer can pay for his stupid decision and the producer gets less profit. By discouraging it’s use, you also minimize the grip of the cancerous substance on society as well.
      As far as school lunches go, the program is already operated by the federal government and is an OUTSTANDING failure. I believe outside entities would do much a better job administering the program and offering foods that are genuinely healthy.
      Not to get too off topic, but here’s a recent study from my neck of the woods.

  • avatar

    Surprising this didn’t turn into another tired, worn out libs vs cons flame war. Refreshing

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned how corn fits into this equation, at least in the United States. Obese people consume more high fructose corn syrup, meaning less corn for the production of ethanol, which seems to be in most of the gasoline sold in the U.S.
    It’s a far bigger question as to whether or not corn should be used to produce sweeteners and motor fuel, but the fact remains that the U.S. subsidizes a significant amount of our agriculture. That in turn gives people the ability to drink carb-laced Big Gulps, while driving an otherwise empty vehicle that is capable of seating five or more.
    I’m not saying the current situation is necessarily wrong. In fact, I’m not different than most Americans in my consumption of things that are plentiful and inexpensive – although I’m not overweight, and I exercise six days a week. However, I do wonder how long corn will remain relatively plentiful, and what will happen when it becomes more valuable as a resource for feeding people and livestock in its unprocessed form.

  • avatar

    “There already is talk about a 62-mpg target for 2025.” Feh – they may as well talk about a 620-mpg target.
    My own take on all this obesity talk is that a great deal of it is spread around by people who are making money or hope to make money off it, and using BMI (body mass index) as their marker. It’s certainly true that a lot of people are out of shape, I’m not denying that. But I don’t think a lot more people are out of shape or seriously obese than in previous generations. There is great need for bs detectors when reading or hearing a lot of the crap that passes for health advice nowadays.
    Look at it this way: Compare your physical condition with that of your parents’ when they were your present age. My wife and I are in much better shape than any of our four parents were are our present age, and none of them were layabouts.

  • avatar

    Interesting comments in this here thread, y’all.
    Plenty of pounds packed upon people in this area of un- and ill-educated instinct-led quasi-humans.
    The slender impaired-ness  would be FAR greater if the horde of methamphetamine (meth, crank) junkie vile scum filth were reduced in number.
    Disgusting to see semi-humans wandering, endlessly wandering, almost skeletal in appearance seeking what?
    Packets of crank others have accidentally lost laying upon the ground?
    Considering this area is firmly seated within the southern Bible Belt the presence of the scum vermin surprised me.
    Poverty and idiocy does seem to have a direct correlation.
    Oh well… there is actually less crime hereabouts than in other areas I hanged my hat where there were lower numbers/percentages of vile scum filth wandering…. wandering.
    But, by golly, the tubbos around here are prodigious in their girth, the depth of their lard deposits.

  • avatar

    Whats happened?
    What’s happened? When I look at old TV/movies/newsreels from the 50/60’s Americans particularly the young look handsome & slim.. Has there been some genetic interference in the food chain causing the pack-on in Ibs..?

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps more people smoked then.  Hungry?  Just have a cigarette.  McDonalds in the 50s/60s?  That’s for special occasions like the kids’ birthdays etc.  And anyway there’s only one McDonalds in this city so we have to drive quite aways to get there.

  • avatar

    massive confusion between correlation and causation here….I guess that is what happens when you outsource your research to China.
    A more interesting approach would be take the increase in weight for the individual american, and figure out how much gasoline it takes  to move that around.  Of course, I’d say that is almost impossible to model.
    However, my guess is a more powerful engine would be more efficient at moving the extra 20-50 pounds of driver weight than an engine from the 1980s.  Throw in transmission improvements and you’ve got that zeroed out.  I know in my car the extra weight from a full tank of gas is about 1-2 MPG on the highway.

  • avatar

    Before everyone gets their recommended daily allowance of Moral Indignation at the expense “those fat people” and “the costs they impose on society”, may I suggest that people read the first chapter of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers?
    Therein one will learn about the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania…,_Pennsylvania
    …a town full of obese fat-eating chain-smoking citizens, with remarkably low rates of heart disease, ulcers, alcoholism, depression, and various other medical maladies endemic to the larger American culture.
    What was Roseto’s secret? It’s pretty simple. People were nice to each other. They lived in a very close-knit supportive community where 3 generations of a family would all share the same home, and people were constantly visiting neighbors (to indulge in smoking and high-fat barbecue meals).
    Maybe instead of worrying about people’s eating habits, we should worry about how we treat each other.

  • avatar

    The amount of smug in here is damn near overwhelming.

    Back to the original point; there’s a massive assumption… that the larger the vehicle the more space there is. Ask some of our larger members like psar: I betcha he can’t sit in a Taurus while his Fit is just fine and he’s 6’10”. It’s all about ergonomics not size. And that has nothing to do with mileage.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I grew up in central Illinois and recall attending a farm progress show. One of the things that struck me was how it took about 10 pounds of feed to put about one pound of mass on a hog. So how much “feed” does it take to put a pound of fat on a human? And how much energy does it take to make that food? And what about all those fatties I see waiting for buses? When a dozen people weigh as much as 18 people, that’s got an economic impact. Up and down, start stop, etc.
    Next, why don’t we reclaim that fat when Fatso goes tits-up? Why not turn Fatso’s flab into biofuel? We’re missing the boat, here.

  • avatar

    Some people can’t control their own diet and habit. That’s their choice. I have no problem with that.
    However, this society has gone too far. For example, fat people get double seating on an airplane at no extra charge. That cost is ultimately transferred to not-so-fat passengers, myself included.
    Excuse me, but since when we have become a free lunch society. I always thought if I want a bigger house, I need to pay more. If I want a larger car with more horsepower (assuming same brand and quality), I need to pay more. Why should air travel, a weight sensitive business, any different?
    Fat people chose to live a fat lifestyle, and should live with all the consequences along with it. If we give them an unfair advantage, we are encouraging people to stay that way.

  • avatar

    I don’t think obesity drives car size selection.

    As an aside, I recently saw some photos and videos of construction crews from the early 1980’s and there was not a single fat person or belly in sight.  The guys with their shirts off had six packs – construction workers!  How we’ve changed…

    But back to the topic, I don’t think obesity drives car size but it has done something worse – our populations obese state will prevent us from adopting more fuel efficient vehicles as the price of gas goes up in the future (which I believe it will due to demand, just not sure when or how fast or how much, so I haven’t bet my whole portfolio on that supposition).  We can’t all go to Prius sized cars since so many people are too fat.  And those fat people, by keeping demand for oil high, will require more oil wars – which ironically, fat people will not qualify to fight because of their low health.  So all those thin Prius drivers will need to die to get oil for fat people – that’s the definition of irony right there!

  • avatar

    The fat chick pictured does have a nice face, if she lost weight she’d probably be hot.

  • avatar

    I am downright skinny. But I used to be 50 pounds heavier just five years ago.

    However, I did not become more moral or enlightened by losing the weight. I did not suddenly become smarter or prettier than before. I am not superior to whom I used to be.

    There is no crime in being fat, nor should there be a crime in being fat.

    Fat people buy more expensive cars to support their driving needs. There is nothing wrong with that.

    When our cars were thousands of pounds heavier than today, the folks who drove those cars were dozens of pounds lighter than folks today too. Yet they drove big cars, right?

    The size of your car may reflect on your fatness, but just as often, it does not.

    Claiming that fat people are causing the price of gas to go up is looking for a scapegoat instead of trimming our own fatty lives. If you have already trimmed down both your figure and your automobile, then shut the hell up and help others do the same without preaching at them.

    We will not reach the Garden of Eden. We will not rekindle the Natural Man. We will not make either us or the Earth pure, because the purity needed for the Earth is already established. We poop. We eat. We pee. And the Earth can handle it. Fingerpointing at one another in an effort to guilt someone or to make you feel better is immoral.

    Stop the preaching. Stop the self promoting. Stop the smears. Stop claiming that those who are not you are stupid because only insane people do that. Take responsibility for your own actions and hope the example you set spurs others to follow you. The fact that others do not is not a statement that you are wrong. Get over yourself.

  • avatar

    A weak study, even weaker article, and many simplistic posters. No wonder they laugh at Americans! The price of gas is determined by the oil cartels. Then they hire propagandists to blame the little guy, in this case fat people. If we are concerned with using too much gas, why don’t we go back to driving 55? That would save a tremendous amount of gas! Is anyone complaining about Americans shopping too much and carrying around all those packages in the back seat? How about people who refuse to car pool? Furthermore, obesity is correlated with poverty in the U.S. So many poor fat people must buy smaller cars, take public trans, or conserve in other ways. Only people with diminished intellectual capacities could really blame a fat person of lower socio economic status for gas prices and let the true fat cats (the oil companies) off the hook!
    p.s. I happen to weight 235, proud of every healthy beautiful ounce and I gave up my car yrs ago out of environmental concerns. Unless you did the same, quite whining about fat people!
    p.s. It is YOUR privilege to sit next to me on an airplane, bus, or anywhere else!!!

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: @redapple – interesting. “An acre of mature trees can capture 2.6 tonnes of CO2 per year.”...
  • dal20402: OK, that’s a new one, but taking it at face value… (1) If it is actually possible to engineer a major...
  • dal20402: My state imposes a registration surcharge for EVs that is quite a bit more than the gas tax savings I...
  • j lu: “Though your author would argue that there’s nothing luxurious about nixing built-to-order...
  • RHD: When you have solar panels, charging is basically free.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber