Jet Air Travel

 Jet Air Travel 

Jet air travel has become the standard way to move people and goods quickly from point A to point B, but it is also the most polluting and energy-intensive way.  Consider these figures: 

Average BTU* Consumed Per Passenger Mile 
By Mode of Travel:


   SUV:  4,591

   Air:  4,123

   Bus:  3,729 

   Car:  3,672

   Train:  2,138

* BTU: British Thermal Unit, a measure of energy.

Note that the United States alone burns about 15 BILLION gallons of jet fuel each year (1.5 million barrels, each day).  We dump 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air we breathe each year from jet air travel alone. (that’s 65 million metric tons X 2200 = 143,000,000,000 pounds. Into. The. Air. We. Breathe.)  This does NOT include the N0x, VOCs, PM, Sulfur and Lead -- which are the really nasty toxins released for our "convenience" that are largely responsible for many illnesses and cancers found in our population today. Carbon dioxide is the invisible pollutant that is chiefly responsible for Climate Change (often called Global Warming). 

Of course cars and trucks contribute even more pollution, with gasoline contributing five times that amount (501 million metric tons) and Diesel almost double that (108 million metric tons), but remember cars and trucks transport most of three hundred million people each day while jet air travel only serves about two million each day; besides, this rant is mostly about jet air travel, not cars and trucks (a whole other rant).

OK, so these numbers are a bit mind-boggling.  The bottom line is that jet air travel uses the most energy to transport the fewest people and dumps millions of tons of pollution into the air in the process.

It is little wonder that jet air travel is so heavily subsidized by the US Government.  Every year taxpayers’ elected representatives hand over $8 Billion dollars in subsidies to the airline industry!  Since 9/11/01 we have padded its budgets with over $15 Billion dollars just so that one out of 150 Americans can fly each day.  By the way, most of these high-fliers are corporate and government business travelers, not regular folks out sightseeing or on vacation.

Think about these facts.  Someday, someone will have to pay for our excesses.  Maybe it would be better to plan fewer trips and when we do travel to allow more time, and take the train instead of flying  Your grandkids may have a chance to thank you.

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics 

The top five American cities with air unhealthy to breathe are ALL in California.  Topping the list are Riverside/San Bernardino, Fresno and Bakersfield, with over 400 days out of 730 that the air was deemed "unhealthy" to breathe.  Following at Number 4 is Los Angeles/Long Beach with 255 days, and Sacramento at Number 5, with 163.  Friends in Oakland: Your city rings in at Number 48 on the list, tied with Indianapolis.

Source: STPP Report: Clearing the Air 

By the way, it has been recently reported that 191 million Americans are driving 201 million vehicles.  Hey, that's more vehicles than drivers!  What owns who here?  I can't resist mentioning that the poorest Americans spend the largest part of their income (40%) on private transportation, while the average American family spends 18.3% of their income on the care and feeding of their private transportation.

Source: STPP Report: Transportation Costs and the American Dream 

Let's not forget that the US Government is spending $1 Billion dollars each week to secure "vital American interests" in the Middle East so that we can keep all this insanity going!  Do we really have to keep racing those cars, trucks and SUVs around as fast as possible, one person per vehicle, an average of four trips each day, and flying those heavily-subsidized jet airplanes every time we "need" to go somewhere in a hurry?  Are we Americans so "unique", and our "needs" and "work" so special, that we are willing to keep funding the petroleum warlords and to keep this brutal assault on humanity and on Earth going?

Hurry -- let's get it over with.

Tim Castleman