Author Topic: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"  (Read 6875 times)

smirchfa

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"Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« on: November 07, 2013, 10:52:15 AM »
Long time lurker, first time poster - I couldn't let this gem go unnoticed:

http://www.businessinsider.com/walking-may-be-worse-for-the-environment-than-driving-2013-11

"The heavier you get, the less efficient walking is, as a heavier person would burn more calories from walking a mile. So walking can be 1.5 to 2 times more polluting than driving a high mileage car."

Insanity

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2013, 10:56:33 AM »
I haven't read it, but my head is spinning just from that quote.

smirchfa

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2013, 11:01:59 AM »
The logic behind the article is so twisted that it's no longer fair to call it logic.

ducknalddon

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2013, 11:02:24 AM »
Quote
That's the conclusion Richard B. Mckenzie, a professor of Economics

No wonder Economics is called the dismal science.

AlmostIndependent

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2013, 11:06:25 AM »
This reminds me of that old email that got forwarded around about how a Prius was worse for the environment than a Hummer.

beltim

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2013, 11:06:40 AM »
The logic behind the article is so twisted that it's no longer fair to call it logic.

What's wrong with his logic?  It seems like he lays out his argument pretty well, and also gives cases where his conclusions don't apply.

smirchfa

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2013, 11:11:52 AM »
The logic behind the article is so twisted that it's no longer fair to call it logic.

What's wrong with his logic?  It seems like he lays out his argument pretty well, and also gives cases where his conclusions don't apply.

His argument leaves out so many relevant externalities - how about fuel costs associated with the healthcare system that has to take care of sick overweight people that don't get exercise? He's picked an incredibly narrow set of criteria. With such a narrow range of criteria, I could probably make a similarly valid argument that the moon is made of cheese.

jdoolin

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2013, 11:13:46 AM »
How many calories does it take to build a hover-round so that the obese can make their way around a store?  Or to run a hospital with a large percentage of patients who might not otherwise be there if they lived a less sedentary lifestyle? 

In other words, how many calories must be burned because someone chose to drive instead of walk?  Just due to health and financial problems alone.

grmagne

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2013, 11:31:12 AM »
Lately I’ve noticed that most people in my condo building will push the handicapped button so that the door opens automatically. Even though this uses a minimal amount of energy, I’ve been wondering how much we’d save on electricity from the condo budget if everyone (gasp) used their arms to open the door. It’s probably not very much, but now this article has me thinking that maybe everyone else has it right and I’m actually destroying the environment by not using the handicapped button to open the door ;)

It was an interesting read, though. I like contrarian thinking, in general, but I hope not too many people rush out and buy Hummers after reading it.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 11:36:50 AM by grmagne »

jfer_rose

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2013, 11:38:08 AM »
These arguments in this article are so ridiculous that I can't believe I'm about to engage but I can't resist.

Most Americans are not getting as much exercise as they need. Most of us do not need to replace the calories we burn while walking or biking because we already take in more calories than we burn. So it is absurd to think it matters how many calories it took to produce those replacement calories when we don't actually need any replacement calories.


kyleaaa

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2013, 11:44:59 AM »
Yeah, most people who walk a few miles per day don't eat a single calorie more than they otherwise would have had they sat on the couch all day. In some cases, they eat less due to a quirk in the way human metabolism works.

galliver

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2013, 11:46:44 AM »
These arguments in this article are so ridiculous that I can't believe I'm about to engage but I can't resist.

Most Americans are not getting as much exercise as they need. Most of us do not need to replace the calories we burn while walking or biking because we already take in more calories than we burn. So it is absurd to think it matters how many calories it took to produce those replacement calories when we don't actually need any replacement calories.

That pretty much covers it, I think!

GuitarStv

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2013, 11:46:53 AM »
Quote
Producing food worth 200 calories takes up to 3000-4000 calories.

Not according to this article in scientific american . . . it's half that.  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/2011/08/11/10-calories-in-1-calorie-out-the-energy-we-spend-on-food/


Quote
a person that drives a high fuel economy car that burns 40 miles per gallon will be using only a half to two-thirds of the energy than the walker uses in replacing the calories he expended on walks.

Based on the above, a person who drives will be using between the same amount to 1/6th more calories than the person who walks.  Of course, this also fails to take into account the fuel energy spent starting the vehicle, the energy spent entering the parking facility, the energy spent driving around looking for a parking spot, etc.



Article's main point refuted?
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 11:48:38 AM by GuitarStv »

Kaspian

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2013, 12:08:00 PM »
It also fails to take into account that the more a "heavier person" walks, the lighter that person will eventually become.  (In all likelihood.)  As for the car?  As the years go on I highly doubt that the car will become lighter and more fuel efficient.

GuitarStv

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2013, 12:21:26 PM »
You've clearly never owned a rusting older car.  As the muffler falls off and the undercarriage slowly disintegrates they get much lighter!

beltim

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2013, 12:53:44 PM »
The logic behind the article is so twisted that it's no longer fair to call it logic.

What's wrong with his logic?  It seems like he lays out his argument pretty well, and also gives cases where his conclusions don't apply.

His argument leaves out so many relevant externalities - how about fuel costs associated with the healthcare system that has to take care of sick overweight people that don't get exercise? He's picked an incredibly narrow set of criteria. With such a narrow range of criteria, I could probably make a similarly valid argument that the moon is made of cheese.

Sure, but saying his logic is incomplete is a different argument altogether from his logic is wrong or twisted.  I'd definitely be interested in a rebuttal that included the externalities you mentioned.

Dezrah

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2013, 12:59:38 PM »
This article is clearly Trollbait.  I'm more surprised it was on Business Insider.  Seems more like something you'd find on Slate or Daily Mail.

Dulcimina

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2013, 01:15:56 PM »
I just read a book a book called Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin.  The book made several of the same points about how the farm sector uses energy. Quoting from the article, not the book:

Quote
"Many categories of farm equipment—such as tractors, mowers, trucks, cars, balers, and combines—can be as gas-guzzling and polluting as the eighteen-wheelers on the nation's highways.

Farms use a lot of electricity—generated by distant and often coal-burning power plants—to run irrigation equipment and heating/cooling systems for cattle barns, pig or poultry pens, and animal waste disposal plants.

The nation's entire food industry—ranging from the production of fertilizer and pesticides to crops and livestock to food processing, packaging, and transportation and then on to food preparation by consumers—uses nearly a fifth of the fossil energy burned annually in the United States.

Field hands who actually pick crops hunched over rows need to eat extra-large energy-dense meals to replace the 5,000 (or more) calories they can burn daily, and the calories they down are also produced in energy-intensive ways.

A major input in agriculture is natural gas, and the cost of natural gas can be as much as 90 percent of the total production cost of fertilizers and pesticides."

That's where the two diverge.  Salatin's premise is that this type of farming hasn't been normal throughout most of human history, and that it's not good for the land, the animals or us.  Manure should be used to replenish fields as fertilizer rather than as waste to be disposed of.  If you are using manure, then you don't need to buy fertilizer.  Grass fed animals aren't eating expensive grains. If farms had gardens then they would support the 5000 calorie/day workers, etc. 

Also, he compares the food production energy use to the price of gas used per trip.  Wouldn't an apples to apples comparison include the cost of building cars and roads?

daverobev

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2013, 01:39:10 PM »
Elephant in room: The energy cost to get the fuel into your car so you can drive it to the shops.

Also: 18-wheelers aren't bad. They are actually a very efficient way to move stuff around. Vs a farmer with a pickup driving to market every week.

One problem is packaging. I love the quote.. something like "We have invented plastics which, to all intents and purposes, don't degrade; but we use them for functions that last seconds". My next push is to really reduce the amount of plastic (not that we use *much* now) - ie bake all bread so no plastic wrappers. I know much plastic can be recycled, but it's the incidentals - the film wrap, the bags that just add up and up and up...

Hamster

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2013, 02:09:09 PM »
The math is silly and based on wrong information. Maybe painting with a broad brush, but ever since Freakonomics, it seems economists think they can turn everything on its head by applying some math. Not realizing that the assumptions/inputs are more important than the formulas.

-Hementions the energy costs associated with food production (he claims 15-20 calories cost per calorie of food produced - a VERY high estimate). He attributes food that is thrown away or wasted to the energy expenditure of food production (i.e. adds that to the pollution associate with walking... which is just plain silly).
-He estimates walking a mile at 1-2mph burns 200 Calories above basal metabolic rate. That is about DOUBLE what any other resource will tell you.
So by artificially doubling the energy cost of food production and doubling the calories burned by walking, he's already quadrupled the energy cost/pollution of walking before even doing any math.

While looking at the energy costs of getting food to your table, he apparently omits the fact that extracting petroleum, refining it, transporting it, and getting your car to the gas station all burn fuel.

So, all the assumptions are essentially BS.

Doing a direct comparison of food oils vs gasoline:
A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 kilocalories.
If you drive 1 mile at (an extremely efficient) 40mpg you are burning 0.025 gallons of gasoline (6.4 tablespoons), or 775 kilocalories of gasoline.

A 200 pound person walking one miles at 3mph burns about 110 kilocalories (less than one tablespoon of olive oil - for comparison).

Finally as others have mentioned there are all of the positive externalities of walking, and all of the negative externalities of car driving - do you add the wars in the Middle East, road construction, etc all to the driving side of the equation???
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 02:11:06 PM by Hamster »

abhe8

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2013, 02:13:53 PM »
interesting! although 2 of the assumptions author uses to get to the conclusion are likely invalid. (1. that people would need to consume EXTRA calories to have the energy to walk a mile. false, as almost every american eats more calories then neeed daily. and 2., that beef is the only way to supply those "needed extra" calories. veggies grown out back would be a good choice too :))

SisterX

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2013, 02:16:44 PM »

Also, he compares the food production energy use to the price of gas used per trip.  Wouldn't an apples to apples comparison include the cost of building cars and roads?

Yes, but that doesn't agree with the point the author wanted to make, so they left it out.  Just as he didn't mention that the heavier a person is, the more fuel their car burns to get them from place to place, or the associated healthcare costs that others had mentioned above. 
This isn't a journalistic piece, it's "carry on with business as usual, folks!  no need to change your wasteful lifestyle!" piece designed to make people feel good about their stupid choices.

lentilman

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #22 on: November 10, 2013, 08:34:33 PM »
I can't help but think this is the academic equivalent of "trolling".

He is not comparing the "food in the stomach" of the walker to the "gas in the tank" of the car.

Instead he is comparing the worst case of food in the walker's stomach and ignoring the cost of getting the gas to the car.

To make it more extreme, he could have compared the cost of the energy of a person eating a piece of American bacon fed from imported Italian truffles fertilized from dead Japanese Angus beef raised on Brazilian corn to the cost of flying the person on a fighter plane and concluding the fighter jet was more efficient because of the transportation costs of the food.  Oh- might as well wash the bacon down with some civet coffee.  That way you could also include a Hummer in the jet cargo hold.

The example in this thread of calories from olive oil to calories from gasoline is much better than what the example was in the article.   

Posthumane

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Re: "Walking May Be Worse For The Environment Than Driving"
« Reply #23 on: November 14, 2013, 09:47:25 AM »
I had written a similar post on a work newsgroup a while back in response to a "bike or walk to work day" post. I think my numbers were a little more accurate as I had used average energy consumption for all food production, not just meat, and I was comparing the energy used by a non-overweight cyclist (who presumably WOULD need to consume more energy if he cycled regularly compared to not cycling) to the energy used by four people carpooling (which is a normal occurrence at my work).

Now, my post was obviously tongue-in-cheek because the "bike or walk to work day" was formulated by our headquarters which is in a dense urban area and not in our very rural spot, and in order to reach the conclusion that carpooling was about as good as cycling I did have to ignore all the externalities associated with the production and transportation of gasoline...