As if airlines didn’t have enough to worry about, an AP story on a new government study notes that America’s obesity epidemic is yet another drag on the industry. More pounds per passenger equals increasing fuel costs (which increases environmental costs, too, as you can see in this backgrounder). A couple of morsels:
Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 just to carry the additional weight of Americans, the federal agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The extra fuel burned also had an environmental impact, as an estimated 3.8 million extra tons of carbon dioxide were released into the air, according to the study.
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Airplanes, apparently, are going to comical lengths to shed the weight that their passengers have added, such as using plastic utensils in place of metal; and saying no to bulky magazines.
Northwesterners-despite our reputation as folks who spend lots of time hiking and climbing fake rock walls at REI-are certainly contributing to the extra poundage. As we noted in Scorecard health chapter, while Cascadian lifespan is up in general, obesity-related diseases such as diabetes account for an increasing share of deaths in the Northwest states. But as we’ve said before (and we’ll probably say again) we can place some of the blame on sprawl, still the predominant shape of the Northwest’s cities. Perhaps this is another reason to move to BC’s more compact cities, where the residents drive less, live longer, and probably don’t fill out their airplane seats quite as completely as we do.