President Obama declared today's 41st annual Earth Day proof of America's ecological and conservation spirit—then completed a three-day campaign-style trip logging 10,666 miles on Air Force One, eating up some 53,300 gallons at a cost of about $180,000. And that doesn't include the fuel consumption of his helicopter, limo, or the 29 other vehicles that travel with that car.
In a two-page statement issued before leaving Los Angeles, his last stop in a three city-fund-raising tour that also included important policy pronouncements like his plan to probe what's behind high gas prices, Obama proclaimed: "For over 40 years, our nation has come together on Earth Day to appreciate and raise awareness about our environment, natural heritage, and the resources upon which generations of Americans have depended. Healthy land and clean water and air are essential to the health of our communities and wildlife. Earth Day is an opportunity to renew America's commitment to preserving and protecting the state of our environment through community service and responsible stewardship."
His proclamation added, "Our nation has a proud conservation tradition, which includes countless individuals who have worked to safeguard our natural legacy and ensure our children can benefit from these resources. Looking to the future of our planet, American leadership will continue to be pivotal as we confront the environmental challenges that threaten the health of both our country and the globe."
Unfortunately for any president, there is no way around traveling and the high costs of maintaining armored and militarized equipment sometimes make it a political target. The costs of travel by recent presidents have typically been investigated by opposing parties, but because the administrations and Secret Service don't discuss details like fuel consumption, those probes can't be exact in the total costs.
But it is pretty easy to ballpark the costs of most trips, like Obama's three-day tour. He started at the White House on Wednesday, flew out of Andrews Air Force Base and ended up in San Francisco. On Thursday, he flew to Reno and ended the day in Los Angeles. Today, he flew home, via Andrews Air Force Base.
According to the mileage calculator on webflyer.com, those trips total 10,666 air miles. Published reports say that Boeing 747s similar to Air Force One burn about 5 gallons per mile. With companies like Jet Blue now paying $3.37 a gallon, that’s a total fuel cost of $179,621.
During his trip, Obama's 30-car motorcade was used to carry him to events. His limo, and there are usually two in the motorcade, gets a high of 8-10 miles per gallon, according to industry estimates, ironic considering his recent criticism of low-mileage cars. In Pennsylvania earlier this month, he mocked low-mileage vehicles that get 8 miles per gallon, like heavy duty work trucks.
"If you're complaining about the price of gas and you're only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know," Obama said laughingly. "You might want to think about a trade-in."
During his trip newspapers and local authorities warned about traffic gridlock as the president's motorcade traveled through San Francisco and LA. A similar trip to Los Angeles caused such bad gridlock that a local councilman, Bill Rosendahl, asked for an probe into ways such traffic jams can be avoided in the future. According to wire reports, he said, "I told the White House they might have raised $1 million, but they lost one million votes."
In his Earth Day proclamation, Obama said that international and local action is needed to preserve resources and keep the air clean. "While our changing climate requires international leadership, global action on clean energy and climate change must be joined with local action. Every American deserves the cleanest air, the safest water, and unpolluted land, and each person can take steps to protect those precious resources. When we reduce environmental hazards, especially in our most overburdened and polluted cities and neighborhoods, we prioritize the health of our families, and move towards building the clean energy economy of the 21st century."