How much oil is needed to power Santa's sleigh?

Santa Claus sleigh

Every year around the world, millions of children wait anxiously for Santa Claus to arrive with presents and good cheer.

Official word from the North Pole is that Santa's sleigh has new upgrades this year that allow it to run on good old fashioned jet fuel if the reindeer fail. So how much oil does Santa need for his rounds on the night of the 24th?

Let's assume that Santa's going to use jet fuel. (Around 8 gallons of oil goes towards making a gallon of jet fuel.)

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Next we need to get a rough idea of Santa's fuel economy. How many miles does he go on a gallon of jet fuel?

It's not clear how much Santa's sleigh weighs, or what it is shaped like. But a Lear Jet uses around 1 gallon of fuel per 2.75 miles. A Piper Cub uses about 1 gallon per 15 miles.

So one might estimate the sleigh gets about 5 miles to 1 gallon of fuel.

By some estimates, perhaps 45% of the world's population celebrates Christmas. That means that Santa needs to visit about 675 million households.

With about 7 households per square mile, and assuming that households celebrating Christmas are clustered (which seems logical given religious clustering), that means that Santa has to cover around 94 million square miles of households.

Just to get an idea, U.S. airlines fly a total of around 600 million passenger miles annually.

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We did our own calculations, assuming that Santa would want to economize on time and fly diagonally over each square mile. That means Santa needs to travel around 226 million miles to deliver all of the presents to the world's children.

That means Santa needs around 45 million gallons of jet fuel for his annual voyage.

With jet fuel going for around $1.20 a gallon right now, this puts the total fuel cost of Santa's journey at a bit less than $54 million for one night despite prices being near historically lows.

On second thought, maybe it's time to break out the hay for those 8 reindeer.

-- Michael McDonald is a journalist for

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