The Biden administration announced a goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050, setting forth a plan to dramatically boost production of fuels made from waste or plants to drive down the environmental cost of flying. The use of what are called sustainable aviation fuels is in its infancy, with a handful of refineries in operation around the world. But airlines are banking on them as a major part of their efforts to cut emissions and become carbon neutral by the middle of the century. To learn more, read, “Biden administration sets goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Aviation accounts for about 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The federal government’s new goal targets annual production of 3 billion gallons of the fuels by 2030 — a level the White House says would enable a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions from flying compared with doing nothing.
  • Currently, the alternative fuels have to be combined with conventional jet fuel, and eliminating fuel made from crude oil would require technological breakthroughs to allow engines to run entirely on the alternatives.
  • In March, members of Airlines for America, a trade group for major carriers, set a 2030 target of producing 2 billion gallons of alternative fuels.
    • In September, Nicholas Calio, the group’s chief executive, said airlines had agreed to the administration’s more ambitious goal.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Decarbonizing the transportation sector is complex and this will be an ongoing challenge of the energy transition. Although alternative fuels such as hydrogen are gaining in popularity, the ability to produce green hydrogen to scale has not been solved yet. Additionally, the technology to burn engines on pure green hydrogen as well as the ability to transport these types of sustainable alternatives, has not been developed yet. However, there is an ongoing commitment to invest in ways to produce and transport alternative fuels, which is notable progress for the energy transition.

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