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The expansion of air travel and the consequences of it

How Bad Is Air Travel for the Environment?

September 26, 2012 Wheels good, wings bad. But how much worse, if at all, are the impacts of flying than those of driving? The Boeing website states that this model, with a gas tank capacity of 63,500 gallons, may burn five gallons of jet fuel per mile of flight.

  • Photo courtesy of Flickr user a;
  • She might, instead, explore the Cascades and the Rockies—not a bad alternative.

A 4,000-mile flight, then, requires 20,000 gallons of fuel. A Honda Civic that gets 30 miles per gallon would need 133 gallons of fuel to make a trip of the same distance. Shared between two passengers which may be a generous split; the average car carries 1. And an RV might move just seven miles on a gallon of gasoline.

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Split between the two people on board, that would be about 285 gallons of fuel each on a 4,000-mile tour. So far, air travel is looking to be more efficient. If we keep studying this, the case for flying seems to build: According to FlightStatsan online air travel stat source, an average of 90,000 flights take off every day. Now for land travel: Americans alone reportedly drive 11 billion miles per day, according to these numbers from the Bureau of Transportation. If the average efficiency of a vehicle was as good as 25 miles per gallon wiki.

Automobiles, 1 billion gallons of fuel burned per day, airplanes 740 million.

But according to Carbonicaa carbon offset consultant for businesses, the discrepancy is much greater—and in favor of airplanes. Whether hopelessly jammed or moving free and clear, automobiles are not always more efficient at transporting passengers than airplanes. Jet fuel produces 21 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon burned.

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How is that possible, you ask, if a gallon of fuel weighs less than seven pounds? When hydrocarbon molecules separate through combustion, the carbon atoms recombine with two clunky oxygen atoms each, accounting for substantial weight gain. And gasoline produces almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon burned. About the same for each, meaning that we get more emissions globally from cars than we do from airplanes.

  • Americans alone reportedly drive 11 billion miles per day, according to these numbers from the Bureau of Transportation;
  • Jet fuel produces 21 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon burned;
  • And an RV might move just seven miles on a gallon of gasoline;
  • According to the International Council on Clean Transportation ICCT , the cumulative climate impact of aviation to date is equivalent to about 40 percent of all surface transport modes, even though motor vehicles are far more numerous than planes;
  • Wings good, wheels good—propeller simply awful:

Airplanes measure fuel efficiency by how far one seat can travel per gallon, and, according to Department of Transportation data reported in the Wall Street Journalmajor U.

Airplanes, it still appears, are more efficient than cars. Some sources report very different conclusions than mine. For example, this article from the U. But they came to this conclusion because their calculations are based on an extremely short-haul flight of 185 miles Manchester to London, one-way and a very efficient car.

Obviously, the more people that can be crammed onto an airplane, the less ownership each individual has in the fumes that it leaves behind.

Global Air Transport Continues to Expand

Thus, one obvious fault of the aviation industry is the fact that an airplane, even if just a handful of seats are sold, must still make the scheduled flight: In a perfect world, that flight would have been canceled.

Before you walk away thinking flying is greener than driving, consider some key points. First, airplanes emit their fumes directly into the upper atmosphere, where they may linger longer and cause more damage than the same gases at lower altitudes.

Second, air travel is not a service that very often takes us places that we really need to be. He might simply not go at all.

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Though in a better world, Americans might enjoy a high-speed rail system. Consider, Europe, home of the TGV ; and Japan, where the magnetic levitation train seems almost a trick of magic, moving nearly as fast as an airplane on virtually no fuel.

  • How is that possible, you ask, if a gallon of fuel weighs less than seven pounds?
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  • This has to do with low fuel prices for an extended period of time, as well as a tripling in the average age of aircraft since the late 1980s.

And the cyclist that flies from Seattle to Lisbon for a two-month bicycle tour of Europe might simply never go at all if it required taking a multiweek boat trip just to get to the starting point. She might, instead, explore the Cascades and the Rockies—not a bad alternative. But this group of musicians— the Ginger Ninjas, which I featured several months ago —has toured in Europe by bicycle after traveling there by boat.

It is a luxury. If you hope to visit Hawaii this fall, you should probably fly. Wings good, wheels good—propeller simply awful: If you think a Boeing 747 is inefficient at five gallons to the mile, then try to swallow this: The Queen Elizabeth II moves 29 feet per gallon. But the cruise ship, retired as of 2008could carry as many as 1,777 passengers, plus another 1,040 crew members. Photo courtesy of Flickr user a.