For several years, a few airlines, notably United here in the US, have been experimenting with the use of sustainable jet fuel. Sustainable aviation fuel is made from such things as used cooking oil and agricultural waste. It produces up to 80% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional jet fuel.
To date, when used it has been blended with fossil fuel jet fuel at a fairly low level. United is the largest consumer of sustainable jet fuel in the US, but it accounts for less than one percent of the airline’s total fuel consumption. Unfortunately, sustainable fuel can be as much as three times more expensive than conventional jet fuel.
Because of increasing governmental policy changes, technological breakthroughs, and climate commitments by airlines, efforts to increase the viability of sustainable jet fuel are ramping up.
Recently, United Airlines, Air Canada, Boeing, Honeywell, and JP Morgan Chase made initial contributions of $100 million to a new venture capital fund that will invest in sustainable fuel technology. United expects the fund to grow to $500 million and make about two dozen investments over the next three years.
Emissions from aviation contribute more than two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year. Like many big companies, United Airlines has pledged to stop adding carbon emissions to the environment by 2050. Unlike many, United has also pledged to eliminate emissions without using carbon offsets, which is effectively paying others to do their dirty work without cleaning up their own operations.
Multiple sustainable fuel companies in the US and abroad are working on a variety of ways to make aviation fuel from sustainable sources.
A Sudden Rush to Make Sustainable Aviation Fuel Mainstream
Photo, posted August 18, 2021, courtesy of Ronen Fefer via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio