Pollan Backs Away From Hummer Driver Versus Meat Eater Math

Photo: Patrick McMullan

If you even rarely use Twitter, you know that at PopTech 2009 on Saturday, Michael Pollan said that “a vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius.” Highly tweetable, yes, but not true, says Adam Pasick of Reuters. Pasick cites a 2005 paper that “found that the difference between a heavy meat-eating diet and a vegan diet was about 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year. The difference between a Prius and an SUV (they used a Suburban, which gets about the same mileage as a Hummer) was 4.76 tons per year.” However, Pasick admits that when you factor in improvements in gas mileage that have occurred since 2005, the difference between a Prius and Hummer driver is 2.6 to 3.3 tons per year — which isn’t that far from the two-ton difference between a heavy meat eater and a vegan. Pollan now says he doesn’t feel comfortable defending his statement, but that he stands by the gist of it.