April 9, 2008 — -- Angry protesters, riot police, mass demonstrations, arrests for disorderly conduct -- it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the Olympic-torch relay. If people are looking for another reason to be pissed at China, how about this: By the time this pyro parade is over, it will have produced about 11 million pounds of carbon emissions.
The torch is visiting 23 cities during a global sweep that includes stops in London, Paris, San Francisco, Bangkok, Islamabad and Almaty among others. The Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee says the journey will cover more than 85,000 miles.
So when the torch isn't being marched through city streets and/or extinguished by protesters, how is it getting around? You guessed it, by plane -- an Air China A330 custom painted with the Olympic logo and color scheme. The A330 burns 5.4 gallons of fuel per mile. That translates into 462,400 gallons for the entire trip. With Earthlab estimating that every gallon of jet fuel burned produces 23.88 pounds of CO2, the Olympic Torch Relay is adding about 11 million pounds of carbon to the atmosphere. That's 5,500 tons.
London has a plan to ensure that the 2012 torch relay ends up carbon neutral, so we figured that Beijing must have one too, right? Sally Lu, the frazzled Olympic media relations rep that we reached in Beijing, says that if there is a plan to neutralize the torch-carrying jet's carbon emissions, she hasn't heard about it. But she thinks there is one. Probably.