Cruisin' for burgers pollutes less than charbroiling them
Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.
A new study by the University of California-Riverside has found that charbroiling a hamburger generates more particulate emissions than diesel trucks create while hauling stuff back and forth across America.
According to the study, you would have to drive an 18-wheeler about 143 expressway miles to create the same particulate emissions as cooking a big, juicy hamburger patty.
Ah, finally, an environmental story with data you can get your teeth into.
It seems a clever way to measure pollutants and a picturesque way to make a case that advanced clean-diesel technology and low-sulfur fuel have all but eliminated most diesel pollutants that were prevalent back in the days when we thought of truck drivers as knights of the road.
But here's the rub. The study was funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to investigate emissions from commercial charbroilers. They were trying to determine whether companies that cook burgers by the thousands are horrible polluters that are destroying the air in California more than diesel trucks.
In other words, the comparison of burgers to particulate emissions from diesel-powered big rigs was merely a delicious side dish.
Even so, anything that reminds the world of the value of clean diesels is worthwhile.
Most environmentalists discount clean diesels as a viable way of increasing fuel economy or reducing carbon emissions, especially in cars, where they clearly prefer electrification.
Big-rig trucks are a little different. There are proposals to reduce the size of Class 8 trucks -- say, from 18 wheels to 10 -- so they require smaller engines that consume less fuel.
Some of the more radical environmentalists probably even want big trucks to be powered by built-in windmills, making them look like dorky boxes topped by beanies with propellers as they roll along highways, crisscrossing the heartland.
Honestly, even though the thick, black smoke is gone, diesels still don't smell as good as a burger.
You can reach Edward Lapham at email@example.com.