High Gas Prices = Slimmer People

A researcher concludes that $4/gallon gas can help curb America's obesity epidemic

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Today I stumbled across a report that an assistant econ prof. in North Carolina put together which surveyed 20 years of government health surveys and compared them to then-current fuel prices. Charles Courtemanche’s digging uncovered a link between the price of gas and fat. Basically for every $1 increase in the price of a gallon of gas, the obesity rate could shrink by 10 percent as they walk or turn to bikes for trips to the neighbors, parks, schools, and limit their car use to commuting and ferrying people around. Nice.

AsI choked on paying $5.22/gallon to fill-up my car in Aspen last week, I started wondering how much gas would have to cost for me to sell my car altogether. In that dream state, I then started wondering what my life would be like without a car: would I have even been in Aspen? How often would I see my relatives? And perhaps more importantly, how would I ever make it to a remote backcountry trailhead without one.

The one thing I did know, however, is that I’d be in phenomenal shape. In college, I lived without motorized transportation for a month and rode my bike everywhere, even though I had a 35-mile round-trip commute to my part-time job. After four weeks of riding 250+ miles a week, I thought nothing of spending 3 hours to bike 40 miles to someplace and had the body of a Tour de France racer. I had hordes of excess cash thanks to no car, gas, or insurance payments. But I only saw my family if they visited me, and all that riding time didn’t leave me with many friends. My dating life turn into a desolate wasteland, since “I’ll meet you at the restaurant on my bike,” elicited an immediate, “Sorry, I’m busy,” from every woman I asked out.

But I digress: My trip to Aspen and Courtemanche’s research has left me obsessed with figuring out how expensive would gas have to get for me to stop driving and reserve my wheels for when I truly need them? For better or for worse, I’m not there yet, but I’m getting close; paying $5.22/gallon for gas had me seriously considering trading my car for a new bike.

How much more expensive will gas have to get before you stop driving?