Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Walking pollutes more than driving?

That conclusion represents a great example of the power of the economic way of thinking.  Often times, assertions and views that we hold are turned on their head when exposed to the lens of economic analysis.  Frequently we end up supporting an originally opposite view point, or reaching a conclusion that completely befuddles common sense! Such is the case with the topic in the title of this OLS post.  Here's the introduction to a fascinating article by Richard McKenzie at the Economics Library website:
Which is more polluting—driving a mile to work or walking that mile? The easy answer is, of course, driving. Cars have tailpipes; people don't. Far more energy is needed to push a 3,000-pound car along the road than is needed to move a 150- to 250-pound body along a sidewalk. Walking seems like the green thing to do.
But appearances can be deceiving, making easy answers dead wrong. That's the case here when the calories expended in walking are replaced.
McKenzie's article has an interesting discussion of how electric cars are often more polluting than standard fossil fuel power cars.  And for a supporting analysis of McKenzie's article, click here to see economist David Henderson's thoughts.