Author Compares Vegan Hummer Driver to Meat Eating Prius Driver, Says Hummer Driver is Better for Environment

The 2010 Toyota Prius

The 2010 Toyota Prius

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Last week author Michael Pollan made a statement that upset many.  His words, "A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint that a beef eater in a Prius."  Obviously his claim drew immediate criticism, but is there any truth to his words?

Well, it turns out that Pollan was indeed wrong across the board.  Gidon Eschel and Pamela Martin from the University of Chicago decided to investigate the claims made by Pollan.  According to their research, switching from a meat eater to a vegan saved around 2 tons of CO2 per person each year.  Additionally, a Hummer emits an average of 4.76 tons of additional CO2 pollutants than a Prius does per year.  The conclusion, a vegan in a Hummer would still contribute an additional 2.76 tons of CO2 than a meat eater in a Prius would.

Pollan decided to retract his statement by saying, " After digging into it further, and consulting Gidon Eschel, I don't feel comfortable defending [my earlier statement]. It's much more important to keep the focus on the central thrust of the environmental case against eating industrial meat, which is not in dispute and certainly does not stand or fall on the case of the vegan Hummer driver."

Pollan is the author of The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore's Dilemma in which he constantly opposes meat eaters and suggests they have a negative impact on the environment.

However, as we know by now, the Prius is one of the cleanest vehicles on the planet and as such should not be subjected to the claims made by Pollan.  The Prius achieves 50 mpg, does so without emitting a high amount of pollutants, sells in high volumes, and throughout its production cycle has saved millions of gallons of gas each year compared to its gasoline only counterparts.

Source:  AutoblogGreen

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Comments (14)
  1. Sadly the research doesn't take into account the raw materials, manufacturing process, servicing costs, running costs or the cost of recycling the vehicle at the end of its' lifecycle (the total lifetime cost). If these are taken into account, the Hummer driver is indeed more 'environmentally friendly'. This has already been published in a report in the last year or so and was quite a shock at the time.

  2. As well as what Nik has pointed out, the researchers also seem to have forgotten methane in and other gases containing carbon in their research.
    I remain unconvinced at how accurate this claim is (and I am not a vegan). I'm sure if we were to dig deeper into this study we would be able to find even more flaws.

  3. Nik,
    If memory serves me right, that report was flawed. It made the assumption that the Hummer would be scraped after 200,000 miles and the Pirus after 100,000. Alloting twice the life time brought the manufacturing pollution of the Hummer to less than the Pirus. I don't believe it addressed costs, just pollution. The Hummer weighs almost 3 times the Pirus, how could the material cost be less? And for sure the running cost of the Pirus is a small fraction of a Hummer.

  4. The reality is, if you want to make a difference, you'll make a difference. Drive a hybrid (or bike or walk) AND go vegan.

  5. Good work! I wonder what the carbon footprint of a bison eater (once or twice a week) afoot (or perhaps driving an Aptera 2e charged by his/her solar powered house)gathering plants and roots(growing vegies in a green house) would be ...

  6. Why can't vegans just accept that most people like to eat meat?
    Why do they try to guilt other people into becoming vegans with bogus claims?
    Except for some fundamental religions, I have never met a group of people who are so intollerant of the right of others to do as they choose.
    I have cut my meat consumption in half and may become vegetarian or vegan at some point. However, I never intend to force my own personal choices onto others.

  7. Bret, many vegans do accept that others eat meat. Those who don't often feel morally obliged to advocate against meat eating for similar reasons that you might feel obliged to advocate against slavery. This isn't to say that slavery and meat eating are morally equal, but rather that both are moral issues and thus provoke similar types of response. As for the vegans who make bogus claims to support their case, those are either simple mistakes or unfounded bullshit. Just about everyone makes claims that turn out, at times, to be mistaken or bullshit, vegans are not special in this regard.

  8. I am a vegan with a prius. Now what?

  9. A Prius has one of the highest concentration of rare earth metals in a consumer product. Get a light weight (conventional) Japanese car if you want to save the environment.

  10. The study that stated that Hummers were more 'environmentally friendly' than a Prius was fatally flawed.
    Here's a link to a web page covering the flawed report:
    Tidbits: The report assumed the lifespan of a Hummer to be 35 years and 379,000 miles, while the prius was assumed to have a lifespan of 11 years, and 105,000 miles.
    Clearly a problem to begin with. The hummer might see 379,000 miles, if it is put on a trailer for 270,000 of those miles, while I know several prius owners with mileages far above 100,000. (Anecdotal yes, but still.)

  11. the rare earth materials can be 19recycled, durr

  12. Who cares either way? Carbon is not a pollutant.

  13. Did they factor in the trucking (and shipping, where applicable) costs of meat and vegetables. Its not very vegan to have produce trucked in from thousands of miles away via semi. We cant assume a meat-eater doesnt care about the environment, so factoring in the beef from europe, chickens from China, etc. and of course the meat raised all over the US and central & south america. What can a person do to stand by a conviction and not starve, or become home-bound...etc.

  14. actually I read somewhere that walking actually has a bigger carbon footprint than driving, because of the extra calories expended in walking. From my understanding bicycling is the "greenest" way to travel, surpassing even public transportation.

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