Here's something to think about the next time you head out to the local burger joint: According to researchers at the University of California-Riverside, commercially cooked hamburgers emit more particulate matter than 2007-2010 model year clean-diesel trucks.
"An 18-wheeler diesel-engine truck would have to drive 143 miles on the freeway to put out the same mass of particulates as a single charbroiled hamburger patty," said Bill Welch, the principal engineer on the study, in a statement. The UC Riverside research was funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The research results certainly provided, er, food for thought. "I will say this is an extremely unusual comparison," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Diesel Technology Forum, which has been publicizing the study results. "Generally, clean diesels are matched up against natural gas, hybrids, or electric vehicles for emissions ... tests. This is the first time we've gone head to head against fast food."
Schaeffer credits the trucks' strong showing to the shift to ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel (which became available in 2006) and adoption of advanced emissions-control devices. "Because of the investments in new technology, it now takes 60 of today's [high-technology] trucks to emit the same level of particulate matter emissions as one truck built in 1988," he said.
And if you're worried about the eco effects of firing up the backyard barbeque, relax. The study also found that grilling burgers produces fewer particulates than charbroiling.