To fly or to drive? Energy intensity data provides some insight

by Lisa Timmerman 2/3/2014 9:01 AM

Ever wondered whether it's more fuel efficient to fly or drive over long distances? The answer isn't always straightforward and involves a number of factors, as well as personal choices and preferences. A recent article from The Atlantic offers one explanation based on data recently collected by University of Michigan professor, Michael Sivak. To compare travel modes, the data focuses on energy intensity, or the total amount of energy it takes to move one person one mile. Commercial aviation has seen tremendous energy efficiency improvements over the last 40 years, particularly compared to passenger vehicles which have, on the whole, become less fuel efficient. Better fuel efficiency is certainly a part of the equation, but planes also now fit more passengers and rarely depart with empty seats. The trend is reflected here at PDX. In 2013, PDX had a record-breaking travel year with 15 million passengers. The number of travelers increased 4.4 percent over 2012. At the same time, flight operations - the number of planes coming and going from the airport - remained almost flat with only a 0.1 percent increase.

Which travel mode is right for you? Read The Atlantic's article and decide for yourself.

www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/01/driving-actually-less-energy-efficient-flying/8145/