Energy Use in Flying: Overview & Tips
Jan 12, 2012 | Air Travel
Flying uses a lot of energy. Planes are fuel-efficient, buttrips are long. Read on to learn more.
THE BIG PICTURE
It may seem odd, but think of planes as energy efficient cars. Once you average the fuel used per flight across all thepassengers, planes have an average of 60 miles per gallon (mpg) perpassenger on shorter domestic flights and an average of 52 mpg perpassenger on international flights. (These are 2010 data,reflecting actual flights, miles flown and number of passengers perflight.)
In practice, airplane trips are much longer than car trips. Soenergy use per flight is fairly large. Eliminating one flight peryear reduces energy use by the same amount as dozens and dozens ofcar trips.
If you fly, annual energy use from flights is likely to be 5 - 30%of your annual energy budget. But airline travel as a whole isonly 2 - 3% of our nation's energy use, as 60% of Americans don'tfly each year.
#1 Cars and planes emit about 20 lbs of CO2e pergallon.
The two modes of transportation both burn fuel from petroleum,and despite significant differences in technology, per gallonemissions are about the same.
#2 Long, crowded flights are the most energyefficient.
Long international flights use larger aircraft, which are moreenergy efficient. When the flight is fully booked, less fuel isused per individual passenger. So, to have lowest energy use perpassenger mile, choose those crowded, long flights (and don'tcomplain-too much!)
ENERGY SAVING TIPS
Skip the trip. The best way to save on yourenergy footprint is to reduce the number of flights you take eachyear. Consider video chats or teleconferences.
Drive instead. If you have a few passengers, itmay save energy to drive. For example, a 400 mile trip in a carthat gets 20 miles per gallon requires 20 gallons of gasoline. Flying this length requires 7 gallons per seat. So if there arethree passengers a total of 21 gallons can be attributed to flyingand one gallon can be saved by driving. If there are fourpassengers 28 gallons can be attributed to flying and 9 gallons canbe saved by driving. To do these calculations yourself, simplycompare the total gallons from flying the trip length for allpassengers with the total gallons needed to drive the car the samedistance.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
See the details on our calculations for energy use in flying here.
Check out our blog post critiquing "green airline" claims.
Keywords: flying, carbon emissions from flights, savingenergy, airline emissions, airline energy use.