Somewhere I read that it was Kumioko who first raised this issue, but as intrepid leader and CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, it has now become fashionable to ask about Katherine Maher’s carbon footprint. In fact, at this very moment Fae is proposing to add carbon offsetting to the expenses of his LGBT conference in Europe and make a big donation to some corporate carbon offsetting entity on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation and all the gay peoples of the world.
So we asked our statistics department at Genderdesk to come up with some numbers.
First, how much gas does a plane burn?
According to this, and it is translated into European for our metric friends,
a Boeing 747 uses approximately 1 gallon of fuel (about 4 liters) every second. Over the course of a 10-hour flight, it might burn 36,000 gallons (150,000 liters).
This sounds like a lot at first, but a 747 can carry 568 people So, if on a given flight, there are 500 people on board, it will burn 0.01 gallons per person per mile. This works out to 100 mpg per person. (This is 2.35 liters per 100 km.) If you use 25 mpg (9.41 liters per 100 km) as the number for one car, this starts to look more favorable.
But this is for a whole plane load of people. How much of this is just for Katherine?
Surely the airlines are not going to stop scheduling flights just because the WMF stops buying plane tickets. And surely a plane is going to take off whether Katherine is on it or not.
This time we turn to Quora for a crowd-sourced answer. Here we learn that a plane can burn one ton of fuel, just taxiing to the runway. We also find out that the old FAA weight standard was an average of 180 lbs for men and 165 lbs. for women. I think that’s a little high for Katherine, she works out and is in good shape, especially considering her age, she is in phenomenally good shape. But it’s a good enough ballpark number to work with.
We also find a calculation there for how much extra fuel a fat person takes up on a plane. This is the answer given by an aviator with experience on DC-8s and B-707s
The technical answer is yes, the more weight each passenger weighs, the more fuel will be burned. How much fuel per person, exceeds the national weight average as described above?
If memory serves based on specs of current wide body twin engine aircraft (B-777–300er or A350-XWB) flying 7,000 kilometers across the Pacific or Atlantic from somewhere in North America in a fully loaded (368 passengers, full cargo hold, Maximum fuel load, supplies, etc.) aircraft, excluding all airport runway taxing, take off and landing (which follow specific power settings) and the passenger was 50 lbs above average, that person’s portion of extra fuel burn is probably around 2 gallons of fuel, +/- 0.5 gallons or about $8.00 USD of Jet A.
So there it is: 7,000 km (4349.598 miles), 50 lbs, and 2 gallons of fuel. So if Katherine weighs 165 lbs, sending Katherine to Wikimania in Stockholm took 6.6 extra gallons of fuel. At $2.50/gal, (since we haven’t seen gas above $4 since the Bush White House), this is $16.50. Personally I would rather see this money go to an animal shelter than some corporate tax shelter set up by rich lawyers who know how use guilt and political pressure to shake down contributions from non-profits.
So let’s take this to the next level and consider her carbon footprint when she is NOT traveling. We know when she is in San Francisco, she has a pied-à-terre within sight of Sutro Tower. The distance between the antenna tower and One Montgomery Tower in the financial district, where the Wikimedia Foundation is located, is 5.2 miles. At 25 miles to the gallon, she can make about 5 car trips (4.8) on one gallon. With 6.6 gallons in her tank, she can make 32 one-way trips, or 16 round trips. Probably less than that, if you count parking and stopping off for milk on the way home, but these are ballpark figures. So if she is out of the office for 16 days, this is is the equivalent carbon footprint of a flight to Europe or Asia. And if you count Wikimania as one week, the net carbon footprint is more like 4 gallons of gas, or $10.
That’s a lot of puppy chow to some homeless animal. But $10 is probably a drop in the bucket to the CEO and officers of some carbon offsetting outfit.
But that’s not gonna stop the usual suspects from whining on the mailing list.