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Our appetite for food boosts consumption -- of gasoline
David Colker, LA Times
Here's another thing to blame on Americans' expanding waistlines: We're using more gasoline.
That's the conclusion of a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which says that 938 million more gallons of gasoline go into vehicles annually because drivers and passengers are considerably heavier today than in 1960.
"Our nation's hunger for food and our nation's hunger for oil are not independent," said computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson, who co-wrote the study scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Engineering Economist.
The project, which looked only at noncommercial travel, was based on the simple fact that heavier cars use more gas.
"We took today's cars and driving habits, and substituted people of average weight in 1960," said coauthor Laura McLay, who was a doctoral student working with Jacobson and now is an assistant professor of statistical science at Virginia Commonwealth University. "I was surprised at the impact."
In 1960, the average adult male weighed 166 pounds and the female tipped the scale at 140. In 2002, those averages were 191 and 164, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Jacobson, who has done numerous studies of how engineering principles can be applied to health issues, said the research wasn't meant to be nagging.
"There are many health benefits for losing weight," he said. "An unexpected benefit is that we would use less fuel."
Any savings would be insignificant, said John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute.
"It's an interesting calculation," Felmy said. "But we use about 140 billion gallons a year. The savings would be less than 1%."
A representative of the Automobile Club of Southern California, which has long preached that changes in driving habits can dramatically reduce gasoline consumption, said the human weight factor is far overshadowed by others.
"The difference between someone who diets and someone who doesn't is not much," said the club's chief automotive engineer, Steve Mazor, "compared to the golf clubs you put in the trunk."
(25 Oct 2006)
I'm struck by the dismissive attitude of John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute: "The savings would be less than 1%." One percent of a huge number is a huge number. Any corporation would kill to get a guaranteed continual boost of 1% in its rate of profit.
On the other hand, automotive engineer Steve Mazor suggests a no-brainer way to save gas - don't carry extra junk in your car! It certainly would be easier than having to lose 20 pounds.
Gas-guzzler drivers face up to £450 parking fee
David Adam, Guardian
Motorists who drive gas-guzzling cars are to face significant rises in parking fees under a pioneering scheme to tackle climate change. Drivers of the most polluting vehicles will be charged up to £450 a year to park outside their homes under the plan, which marks one of the first serious attempts to penalise people for behaviour that damages the environment.
The scheme, piloted in Richmond upon Thames in south-west London, will be closely watched by local authorities and green campaigners, who hope it will lead to similar moves across the country.
(25 Oct 2006)
US in a jam over what to do about traffic
Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor
Rising commute times fuel a long debate over best government role: fund transit or build roads?
ATLANTA - America, it seems, is in a jam. As more and more commuters - some 134 million now - cram America's roads at rush hour, the debate over how to manage all that traffic is as tangled as Atlanta's fabled "Spaghetti Junction."
Part of the discussion is whether upward mobility - which traditionally includes auto ownership - can be reengineered in a way that does not automatically impede suburban mobility. Embroiled in the debate are issues of race politics, the level of transit services for suburbs versus cities, and whether to focus on traffic relief or building for the future.
..."The standard reaction to [building mass transit] is, 'Great. Hopefully everybody else will do it so I can drive on uncongested roads,' " says Denise Starling, executive director of a vanpool service in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood.
Proponents of light- and commuter-rail say transit is not about easing today's rush-hour gridlock, but building a transportation system for the future. Commuters today don't pay enough for the true social and environmental cost of car travel, they say. Building light-rail and setting up "peak-time" tolls for motorists are tactics that would drive people from their cars.
(18 Oct 2006)
Green taxes on air travel 'would boost the economy'
Ben Webster, Times (UK)
IMPOSING green taxes on flights would actually benefit the economy because they would encourage people to take holidays in Britain rather than spending their money abroad, according to a report by Oxford University.
The authors studied the impact of the drop in demand for air travel after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and found that the British economy was boosted by a £555 million net increase in tourism spending.
As people shunned flying, the reduction in overseas visitors coming to Britain was more than outweighed by the rise in domestic tourism. Domestic spending rose by £1.678 billion while spending by overseas tourists fell by £1.123 billion.
The report, by the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, said that emissions of carbon dioxide from the British aviation industry had more than doubled since 1990 and would double again by 2030 under the Government’s plans to build several new runways.
(18 Oct 2006)