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Monday, November 26, 2012

Bicycling Wastes Gas? []

Editor's note: This article is widely misquoted and misunderstood.  Critics usually miss the point completely.  The point is not that "Taking the car is good for the environment" (which was the title of one blog post I saw).  Instead it's this:  Just like some kinds of transportation use more energy than others, some kinds of food use more energy than others too, and what you eat is as much a part of your energy footprint as how you get around.  Please read the article carefully before jumping to any conclusions.  Thank you.
Most people think that bicycling doesn't use gas, but actually it does, indirectly.  It takes lots of energy to produce the food for the cyclist's effort — more than you probably thought.
Of course, we can't just stop eating, but we can definitely choose what we eat, and here's the kicker:meat requires much more fossil fuel to produce than vegetables and grains.  How much more?  About 68 times more for beef than for potatoes.1  The reason for this is simple:  Cattle consume fourteen times more grain than they produce as meat.  They're food factories in reverse.  So it takes a lot more water, land, and of course, energy to produce that meat.  We use absolutely horrific amounts of energy to grow grain to feed to cattle.  In fact, over 80% of the grain grown in this country is eaten by livestock, not people.  So in short, the more meat you eat, the more gas you waste.
Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell University calculates that it takes nearly twice as much fossil energy to produce a typical American diet than a pure vegetarian diet.  This works out to about an extra 200 gallons of fossil fuels per year for a meat-eater.  This means that meat-eaters are "driving" an extra fourteen miles every day whether they really drive or not, when we look at how much extra fuel it takes to feed them.2


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