Michael Pollan's Prius-Hummer Blunder
By Maura Judkis
Posted: October 29, 2009
What a soundbite it was, for all of two days: Michael Pollan, sustainable food guru and author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," told the crowd at the 2009 Poptech conference, "Our meat eating is one of the most important contributors we make to climate change. A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius.”
That line was blogged and tweeted countless times over the next few days. The only problem? It isn't true.
Reuters' Adam Pacisk refuted the claim shortly after, and here's his math:
Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago published a 2005 paper in the journal Earth Interactions that looked at the relative carbon footprints of plant-based and red-meat diets. They found that the difference between an 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. Pollan’s claim, said Eshel, “is emphatically wrong. If you’re looking at the mean American driving habits and eating habits, it’s not even close.” Read More
It seems that Michael Pollan was once again sensationalizing his story about agriculture and food production. But this time he got caught by the several in the media with his fabricated story. Pollan has regularly and admittedly sensationalized his version of agriculture in order scare people about their food and promote his own books. It’s another reason why we shouldn’t be relying on a reporter for our information about agriculture.