Is Flying More Fuel Efficient Than Driving?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are all those miles spent cruising thousands of miles above the ground actually better for the environment than if you were making the same trip by car? Turns out, the answer is yes — kind of.

Smithsonian.com busted out their abacuses (or abaci — no really, that’s the plural) to calculate just how much fuel on average one saves flying rather than driving. Using the statistics for a Boeing 747, Smithsonian calculated that a capacity plane (400 people) works out to about 50 gallons per person for a 4,000 mile flight. The same trip using a very fuel efficient 30 mile-per-gallon Honda Civic would necessitate 133 gallons of fuel.

However, they note that just because planes are a little more fuel efficient than the average car, everyone shouldn’t rush to start maxing out their airline miles in an effort to save the environment. Consider the fact that emissions emitted into the upper atmosphere stick around longer and thus cause more harm, and the fact that airline travel is often unnecessary (many flights are due to vacations and the desire for face-to-face meetings versus trips to the grocery store or the option of tele-conferencing).

Bikes, wind-powered dhows or Gump-style long-distance jogs are still the go-to methods for the truly environmentally conscious. Until the invention of teleportation, that is.

[How Bad Is Air Travel for the Environment?]

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