Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: What is the amount of fuel used in ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: What is the amount of fuel used in
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: nayna-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 01 Aug 2002 11:37 PDT
Expires: 31 Aug 2002 11:37 PDT
Question ID: 48121
To use in a discussion on ecology:  

What is the amount of fuel used in:

 a.  one around-the-world air plane flight (say, Chicago to Milan if
you'd like a standardized example)


  b.  the fuel use in one year of the average U.S. one-person usage of
a car.

I would prefer links with a technical basis versus someone's speculation only.

The answer I assume would be in gallons of fuel, with different fuels
being used, so hopefully the links would include reference to
information on the fuels, such as name, density, cost, political
accessibility, etc. so please include links.

If there is any ambiguity, please comment on that first, so that I may
not misdirect you.


Clarification of Question by nayna-ga on 01 Aug 2002 11:38 PDT
It can be average U.S. one-family car usage, not one-person.  Thanks.

Clarification of Question by nayna-ga on 01 Aug 2002 11:40 PDT
Plus, no need to rush on this.  I'll be gone for a few weeks.
Subject: Re: What is the amount of fuel used in
Answered By: eiffel-ga on 12 Aug 2002 14:07 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi nayna,

According to British Airways, a 747-400 plane cruises at 576 mph (927
km/h), burns 12,788 liters (3378 US gallons) of fuel per hour, and
carries 409 passengers when full:

If the plane is 75% full, one passenger is carried 22.2 km for each
liter of fuel burned (52.2 miles for each US gallon of fuel burned).
This fuel efficiency exceeds that of almost all cars, when the driver
is travelling alone.

According to the Global Distance Calculator
Chicago is 7315 km (4545 miles) from Milan, making a return journey of
14630 km (9090 miles).

Therefore, 658 liters (173 US gallons) of fuel would be burned to
carry a passenger from Chicago to Milan and return.

The average annual distance driven per car in the USA is given as
17862 km (11099 miles) in a report which quotes figures from the
International Road Federation:!OpenDocument

At a fuel consumption of 30 miles per gallon (12.75 km per liter) this
would consume 370 gallons (1401 liters) per year.

On this basis, the car has the greater fuel consumption. However, your
"standard" journey of Chicago to Milan is hardly a "round-the-world"
flight. The circumference of the world is 40074km (24901 miles) and a
plane journey of this distance would consume 1805 liters (477
gallons). On that basis, the plane has the greater fuel consumption.

There are several assumptions incorporated into the above
calculations, such as how fuel efficient the car is, and how full the
aircraft is. So I thought it would be useful to check how others have
approached questions similar to yours. On the "How Stuff Works" site
is the following question:

"How much fuel does an international plane use for a trip?"

They arrive at a figure of 100 miles per gallon per passenger for a
747. However, they assume that the plane is carrying 500 passengers,
which accounts for most of the difference.

Obviously, there are many other environmental variables which could be
considered, depending on type of fuel used, environmental costs of
obtaining the fuel, environmental costs of building the cars and
planes and their associated infrastructure, etc.

Sometimes, environmental costs are expressed in terms of carbon
emissions, and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management publishes
some interesting estimates: (requires PDF viewer)

They report that three return flights from London to New York (33510
km or 20822 miles total) would emit 1000 kg (2205 pounds) of carbon
per person, whereas a year's driving in an "average British car" would
emit 1100 kg (2425 pounds) of carbon.

The "transport" page of the Climate Action Network
calculates carbon emissions for some typical European journeys.
Sometimes the car wins; sometimes the plane wins. For Amsterdam to
Rome (1297 km or 805 miles) the carbon emission is 118 grams per
passenger km for the plane and 119 grams per passenger km for the car.

The site includes a carbon calculator for any
airline flight, which takes account of the different carbon emissions
for takeoff, cruising and landing. Full details are provided of the
method of calculation:
(click on the "Flying off to a warmer climate" link)

Finally, an untitled page by Toriko Kino
performs the calculations for a return flight from Tokyo to New York,
and concludes that the energy consumed is the same as that which would
be provided by the food that a person eats over 14 years!

I hope this answer gives you some material to use in your ecology

Additional link:

"Planet profile" for Earth

Google searches used:

"fuel consumption" car plane

"global distance calculator"

747 specifications

"diameter of the earth"

nayna-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: What is the amount of fuel used in
From: adnam-ga on 02 Aug 2002 12:09 PDT
Hmmm, this can be a sticky issue judging by this article from

"Couple Split Up After Row Over Plane Fuel Consumption

A Dutch couple have split up after an argument over the fuel
consumption of an aeroplane.

The couple, from Velsen-Noord, decided to end their relationship after
arguing about the quantity of kerosene a Boeing 737 spends in flight.
The man pushed his girlfriend, she fell over and a brawl developed in
their home. The pair then threw plates and a telephone at each other
before police arrived.

Officers were surprised to hear the cause of the brawl.

The woman did not want her boyfriend charged with assault.

But the couple decided that after rowing over something so minor, they
were probably not made for each other.

To prevent further rows, Hendrik Baas, a spokesman for Dutch airline
firm, KLM told Ananova that figures for the fuel consumption of
airplanes are influenced by the age of the machines, the motors,
distance, the height, the weather and the number of passengers, but
the average is about 3,200 litres of kerosene per hour."

For the story see

Anyway ... perhaps another important factor is the total quantity of
energy used  viewing the two systems as a whole. For example, it may
be that fuel transportation costs differ between delivery to airports,
and delivery to pertol/gas stations.

If the questioner has an environmental motive they may also want to
investigate the *environmental* costs of both modes of transport, not
just in terms of energy use, but the way the energy is used.  It is
often said that jet-aircraft travelling at high altitudes are more
environmentally damaging than the same amount of fuel being used on
the roads -- obviously that's before you take into account the public
health issues.

I will end this comment with a quote:

"I wish I had myself a horse,
You can't grow roses from exhaust.
I wish I'd listened to my old dad,
He said: two wheels good and four wheels bad."
-- Seize the Day.
Subject: Re: What is the amount of fuel used in
From: nayna-ga on 10 Aug 2002 14:33 PDT
Wow.  That's an awesome comment.  Thanks.  Maybe that's all one can
say about it?...

(Is that why I haven't got an answer yet??)

Anyway, I'm back so I would welcome the official answer now.

Sign Me - A renewed bike rider

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy