U.S. outlines roadmap to boost sustainable aviation fuel

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A Delta Airlines flight casts a shadow in Los Angeles

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Energy Department on Friday issued a plan detailing a government-wide strategy for ramping up production and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

In September 2021, the Biden administration launched a government challenge to supply at least 3 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and have enough SAF by 2050 “to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand, currently projected to be around 35 billion gallons a year.” U.S. airlines have pledged to work with the government to make 3 billion gallons of SAF available to aircraft operators by 2030.

The administration wants SAF to achieve a minimum of a 50% reduction in GHG emissions compared to conventional fuel and seeks to expand supply, use, reduce its cost and enhance its sustainability.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the “plan will help American companies corner the market on a valuable emerging industry.”

The Energy Department said given limited time to meet the 2030 goals “requires an immediate focus on commercially ready conversion technologies and feedstocks.” It added, “Lipid-based pathways (fats, oils, and greases) are expected to be the primary fuel pathway leading up to 2030.”

President Joe Biden signed legislation in August creating a two-year blender tax credit; a subsequent three-year production tax credit; and $290 million SAF grant program.

Many airlines including Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines want to replace 10% of jet fuel with SAF by 2030.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said hitting near-term goals “will require continued work alongside our suppliers and policymakers so that SAF can become as economical and widely available as traditional jet fuel,” while Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said, “SAF is critical to decarbonizing the aviation sector.”

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Aviation generates approximately 2% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and U.S. aviation consumes approximately 10% of U.S. transportation energy.

The Energy Department said that sources to power airplanes other than jet fuels, such as battery technologies and hydrogen, “are not expected to contribute to substantially reducing aviation emissions until after 2050.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter)

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