Michelle Obama flew to Denmark on Wednesday to pitch Chicago as the host city for the 2016 Olympics. President Obama arrived in Copenhagen this morning to make his own pitch, saying that it could repair the American image. Chicago was knocked out in the first round of votes, but that’s beside the point.
Two people. Two planes. Three days. Not very green.
Just last week President Obama told the United Nations General Assembly: “That so many of us are here today is a recognition that the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing. The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy. And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.”
Mrs. Obama left two days earlier in order to have meeting time with IOC members. There’s nothing wrong with the President or the First Lady lobbying to the International Olympic Committee. Sure there are costs to hosting the Olympics, which have some Chicagoans opposed to the idea : “Take the Chicagoans for Rio, a group that is reportedly driving the organizers of the Chicago 2016 bid a little crazy. The Chicagoans for Rio website presents figures on the massive debt accumulated by host cities (Montreal took 30 years to pay off their debt from the ’76 Games) and useless construction (21 of the 22 structures from the recent Athens Olympics are presently going unused).”
No one can really predict whether the benefits of hosting the 2016 games will outweigh the costs, but if President Obama believes what he says that global warming is a near-term, imminent threat, couldn’t the First Couple have flown on one Air Force One together?
Let’s do a back-of-the-envelope calculation on the carbon footprint of taking two Air Force planes as opposed to one:
• Michelle Obama flew in on Air Force Two, a Boeing C-32 - a modified version of the 757-200.
• The fuel consumption of the Boeing is 3900 liters per hour, equivalent to about 1030.3831g/h. The cruising speed is Mach .8 = 272.23200 m / s = 609 mph
• Which is equivalent to 1030.3831 g/1h * 1h/609mi = 1.6919g/mi = .591 mpg
• Assuming both planes have to get back to the U.S. at some point, the trip to Copenhagen, two approximately 10 hr flight equals 10,304 gallons of fuel * 2 = 20,608 gallons.
• Jet fuel emits 21.1 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon.
• Using an additional plane emitted 434,726 pounds of carbon into the air.
Let’s compare this with a Cadillac Escalade – certainly not the green car of choice.
So, taking an additional plane to lobby for the Olympics to come to Chicago is equivalent to driving an Escalade for nearly 26 years. (434,726 lbs of Co2 / 16,797 lbs of Co2).
Environmental hypocrisy is nothing new to celebrities and politicians that make the push to go green. John Travolta often preaches about the catastrophic consequences global warming but has five private jets that he likes to fly for ‘business purposes’. Senator Harry Reid riding in a Chevrolet Suburban to attend a news conference on energy efficiency when a short walk from the Capitol to the Senate building would have sufficed. Google founder Sergey Brin greened the company’s headquarters but signed up for a Co2-spewing joyride in space.
There is certainly nothing wrong with energy efficiency and environmental conservation, but when celebrities and politicians lecture about doing your part, fear monger about global warming and lobby for a cap and trade bill that will make your electricity bills “necessarily skyrocket”, it is hypocritical and arrogant. There is also nothing wrong with people choosing the vehicles they like best, but it is insufferably elitist to punish soccer moms in the name of the environment while skipping the sacrifice yourself.
Drew Davidhizar contributed to this post.