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Heavier drivers seen using more gasoline
Study concludes costs will become 'more significant' as obesity increases.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The widening waistlines of Americans have increased the consumption of gasoline since 1960 according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University.

A report by Laura A. McLay of VCU, concludes that Americans now pump 938 million gallons of fuel more on a yearly basis than they were in 1960 because of their increasing weight.

As American's waistlines continue to grow, so does their consumption of gasoline.

"Although the amount of fuel consumed as a result of the rising prevalence of obesity is small compared to the increase in the amount of fuel consumed stemming from other factors such as increased car reliance and an increase in the number of drivers," the report stated, "it still represents a large amount of fuel, and will become even more significant as the rate of obesity increases."

Americans' reliance on cars for private transportation has increased as low rise construction, single-family homes and highways associated with suburbs have grown since the end of World War II.

McLay began the study as a doctoral student of Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at Illinois.

The report's conclusions are drawn from mathematical computations of weight gain applied to passenger vehicles, including cars and light trucks driven for non-commercial reasons.

The study ruled out increased cargo weight or poor performance through lowered maintenance of cars as contributors to increased consumption. The report will be published in a forthcoming issue of The Engineering Economist.

In spite of a recent dip in gas prices, oil companies such as BP (Charts), ConocoPhillips (down $0.32 to $62.43, Charts) and ExxonMobil (Charts) have enjoyed rising profits, based in part on Americans' dependence on their product.


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