Friday, May 30, 2008

Quantitative eco statement of the day - Flying versus driving

<b>$15,000 for a Airbus A320 to fly from New York to Long Beach.</b> The article cites $3.50/gallon for aviation fuel => 4285 gallons of gas. Google maps says it would be 2827 miles driving => 1.5 gallons of avgas per car mile. A car can hold 4 people where as an a320 can hold 150 people in a typical us carrier configuration. So to equate to the same efficiency as driving in a theoretical 30mpg car, you'd have to have 80 people on board that A320. Given that load factors are in the 70-80% these days, you could easily exceed that.

Of course that's assuming people would be driving if they weren't flying and ignores the fact that google says it's 42 hours driving time so there would most likely be some rest stops, hotel stays, food etc.
clipped from

Any kind of cost savings is vitally important at a time when the cost in fuel of flying from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Long Beach has jumped to $15,000 a flight from $9,600 last year, according to Baldwin. That change makes adding Los Angeles International service unaffordable, Baldwin said.

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Anonymous said...

Ok, but what about flying vs taking a greyhound bus, or taking an amtrack train?

bryn said...

I wasn't saying flying was the most eco-friendly way of travel, just comparing because I found some data!

If anybody has fuel consumption figures for passenger trains or large buses, I'd love to post them.

If we are looking at through a lens of whether or not people should be flying one would have to look at how much value they are contributing for that resource cost if flying is the only practical way (i.e. are they going to collaborate with a colleague on a breakthrough solar array? or do they give up meat, live in a tiny home, and bike to work all year?)

Plus I'd for sure have to consider other alternatives like biking (how much resources for the extra food you'd eat?) and web conferencing (how much marginal computer infrastructure is used, when you take the existing internet as given).

Of course when you take existing resources as given, that flight is already burning that fuel. But the fewer people fly, the more flights are cut so it's not a valid assumption.