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.