From Low Energy Astrophysics
From the White Paper:
Astronomers travel a lot. Some (the observers, in taking data) travel more than others (the theorists), but all attend highly valuable workshops and conferences, and forge collaborations and spread understanding by giving seminars at other institutions. The distribution of annual mileages will have quite a long tail, with a small number of senior astronomers covering very large distances as they sit on various political, organizational, and telescope time-allocating committees. We have very little data on the distribution of annual astronomer flight distances, but adopt the following realistic scenario for our toy model of energy consumption. Suppose that an average astronomer's yearly itinerary consisted of 1 round-trip flight each from Los Angeles to Washington DC (for the AAS meeting, 4600 miles), Hawaii (for an observing run, 5100 miles), Seattle (to give a seminar, 1900 miles), and Paris (to an international conference, 11300 miles), for a total of around 23000 air miles. (Note that the mean distance traveled for work purposes by the contributing authors of this paper is consistent with this estimate.)
Using the airplane energy consumption rate from the introduction above, we estimate that the average astronomer uses, through flying, 23000 miles/yr x 1.8kWh/mile / 365 days/yr ~ 113 kWh/day/astronomer
In terms of miles flown, astronomers are comparable to typical business travelers: according to the National Business Travelers' Association, the average traveling business person flies approximately 24000 miles per year.
Commented out from white paper:
Where do we stand in relation to the rest of the population? We are not aware of any attempts to measure the national distribution of individual daily energy consumption rates, but can ask the following simple question: How far would a person have to fly per year in order to match the total energy consumption of the average astronomer at work?
133 kWh/day x 365 days/yr / 1.8kWh/mile = 27k air miles/year
Any businessperson, or indeed any citizen, who flies more than 27000 miles per year is consuming more energy than the average US astronomer does in doing astronomy. This is important: some of the methods we suggest in this paper to address our largest area of energy consumption will be directly relevant to other communities that engage in similar amounts of air travel.