Mother and Son Cooking

This Thanksgiving, over 55 million people have plans to travel 50 miles or more by air or automobile, according to AAA. That’s 1.6 million more travelers compared to last year – a 2.9% increase. It’s safe to say that participating in Thanksgiving means we’re all consuming a lot of energy to make sure that we can enjoy consuming turkey, stuffing, yams and pie surrounded by friends and family. But have you ever actually considered just how much energy goes into making this national holiday possible for the hundreds of millions of Americans throughout the country? Well, you don’t have to, because we did.


Around 45 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. While cook times vary, on average, it takes 4-5 hours in the oven to cook through a mid-sized turkey. Set at around 350 degrees, that’s about 8 kWh of electricity for one bird. Now multiply that by over 45 million, and that’s a whole lot of energy for one dish. Unfortunately, the energy needed to get this food on the table does not start and end in the kitchen – that doesn’t even dent the surface.

Energy is required to harvest crops, keep livestock and transport all facets of food cultivation so that consumers have access to products all across the country at our local grocery stores. From the energy needed to run plows and tractors, to operating the machinery at processing centers, and fuel required for the trucks and trains used in transportation, the food industry would not be able to feed this country every day, let alone on a national holiday centered on the dinner table, without energy.


With over 55 million people traveling 50 miles or more on the roads and in the air this Thanksgiving holiday to get to their destination, nothing is more important than filling up the tank or buying an airline ticket without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at these 55 million travelers and the impact of their energy consumption. We also have some travel saving tips here.

olympic poolCars

If you’re looking at 2019 fuel standards, the average vehicle gets 25 miles to the gallon, and for a minimum of 50 miles, that’s roughly 2 gallons per vehicle. Yet, we know that most vehicle owners in the U.S. keep their cars approximately 11 years, which means that the average vehicle out on the road today gets more like 22 miles to the gallon. So at that average, for roughly 50 miles, that’s 2.27 gallons per vehicle. Multiply that by the 49.3 million people traveling by vehicle, and that’s 111,911,000 gallons of gasoline used over the holiday at a minimum – enough to fill almost 170 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

oil tankerPlanes

If we’re talking about flights, the amount of energy can get pretty hefty, and with 4.45 million people expected to fly we’ve gathered up the numbers to give you an idea. Let’s use a 737 aircraft as an example. These planes can hold about 189 passengers, divide that by the 4.45 million air travelers that are expected to fly this Thanksgiving, and that’s 23,545 airplanes taking to the skies. Now, each of these bad boys uses 850 gallons of jet fuel an hour. With the average flight duration clocked at 3 hours, that’s 2,550 gallons of jet fuel for one flight. Now, multiply that by the number of planes, and you’re looking at 60,039,683 gallons of jet fuel – enough fuel to fill 4.3 U.S. flagged oil tanker ships carrying a total of 1.4 million barrels of oil just to travel for some turkey and family time.

Even without all of this math, it’s easy to see just how vital energy is to our ability to come together with our families and friends over the holidays to enjoy some delicious food.

So, this Thanksgiving, whether you’re traveling or staying home, cooking a turkey or a casserole, let’s all be thankful for all of the energy development and the accompanying infrastructure we have in place to fuel our lives and allow us to surround ourselves with family, friends and food.