Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Weight Gain Of U.S. Drivers Has Increased Nation's Fuel Consumption

Date:
October 27, 2006
Source:
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
As American waistlines have expanded since 1960, so has their consumption of gasoline, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University say. Americans are now pumping 938 million gallons of fuel more annually than they were in 1960 as a result of extra weight in vehicles. And when gas prices average $3 a gallon, the tab for overweight people in a vehicle amounts to $7.7 million a day, or $2.8 billion a year.

Sheldon H. Jacobson, professor of computer science, and his former graduate student, now a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, have found that weight gain of U.S. drivers has increased the nation's fuel consumption.
Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

As American waistlines have expanded since 1960, so has their consumption of gasoline, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University say.

Related Articles


Americans are now pumping 938 million gallons of fuel more annually than they were in 1960 as a result of extra weight in vehicles. And when gas prices average $3 a gallon, the tab for overweight people in a vehicle amounts to $7.7 million a day, or $2.8 billion a year.

The numbers are added costs linked directly to the extra drain of body weight on fuel economy. In a paper to appear in the October-December issue of the journal The Engineering Economist, the scientists conclude that each extra pound of body weight in all of today's vehicles results in the need for more than 39 million gallons of extra gasoline usage each year.

"The reason we looked at this issue was that gas prices hit an average exceeding $3 per gallon in September 2005," said Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at Illinois.

"This was the highest recorded level in the United States. We thought there must be some way that we could determine how to quantify the effect of being overweight on fuel consumption. We felt that beyond public health, being overweight has many other socio-economic implications."

Jacobson presented the challenge to Laura A. McLay, who was a doctoral student in his laboratory at that time and is now on the faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, and they pursued the issue through his funding with the National Science Foundation.

Their conclusions are based on mathematical computations drawn from publicly available data on U.S. weight gain from 1960 to 2002, a period in which the weight of the average American has increased by more than 24 pounds, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

By 2002, 62 percent of adults were overweight with a body mass index of between 25 and 30; more than 30 percent were considered obese with a BMI exceeding 30.

The fuel-consumption calculations apply only to passenger vehicles, including cars and light trucks driven for non-commercial reasons. Ruled out were other factors such as increasing the weight of cargo or decreasing fuel efficiency through poor maintenance. Driving data collected in 2003 were used to gauge fuel consumption based on weight gains during the last four decades.

The researchers used three different scenarios that considered not only beefier drivers behind the wheel but also their passengers, accounting for individual characteristics such as ages, numbers of people in the vehicle, and expected weights.

Since 1960, McLay and Jacobson said, the consumption of no less than 938 million gallons of gasoline annually can be attributed to weight gains of drivers and passengers. Of that total no less than 272 million gallons are consumed annually as a result of weight gains since 1988.

"The key finding 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," McLay and Jacobson wrote.

"Although the amount of fuel consumed as a result of the rising prevalence of obesity is small compared to the increase in the amount of fuel consumed stemming from other factors such as increased car reliance and an increase in the number of drivers, ... it still represents a large amount of fuel, and will become even more significant as the rate of obesity increases.

The conclusions, Jacobson said, should be considered conservative because they do not consider many indirect consequences of obesity nor the increase in the number of vehicle miles linked to more people living in the United States and owning cars.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Weight Gain Of U.S. Drivers Has Increased Nation's Fuel Consumption." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061025183256.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. (2006, October 27). Weight Gain Of U.S. Drivers Has Increased Nation's Fuel Consumption. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061025183256.htm
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Weight Gain Of U.S. Drivers Has Increased Nation's Fuel Consumption." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061025183256.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins