FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Advances the Future of Sustainable Fuels in American Aviation
New Actions Aim to Produce Three Billion Gallons of Sustainable Fuel, Reduce Aviation Emissions by 20% by 2030, and Grow Good-Paying, Union Jobs
Today, President Biden is taking steps to coordinate leadership and innovation across the federal government, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, fuel producers, airports, and non-governmental organizations to advance the use of cleaner and more sustainable fuels in American aviation. These steps will help make progress toward our climate goals for 2030 and are essential to unlocking the potential for a fully zero-carbon aviation sector by 2050. Today’s executive actions across the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Agriculture, Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the General Services Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency will result in the production and use of billions of gallons of sustainable fuel that will enable aviation emissions to drop 20% by 2030 when compared to business as usual. Together with President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, these new agency steps and industry partnerships will transform the aviation sector, create good-paying jobs, support American agriculture and manufacturing, and help us tackle the climate crisis.
Today, aviation (including all non-military flights within and departing from the United States) represents 11% of United States transportation-related emissions. Without increased action, aviation’s share of emissions is likely to increase as more people and goods fly. That is why leadership and innovation in this sector is so essential if we hope to put the aviation industry, and the economy, on track to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Achieving a sustainable aviation industry requires energy efficiency improvements in aircraft technology and better operations. In the future, electric and hydrogen-powered aviation may unlock affordable and convenient local and regional travel. But for today’s long-distance travel, we need bold partnerships to spur the deployment of billions of gallons of sustainable aviation fuels quickly.
That is why President Biden proposed a Sustainable Aviation Fuel tax credit as part of the Build Back Better Agenda. This credit will help cut costs and rapidly scale domestic production of sustainable fuels for aviation. The proposed tax credit requires at least a 50% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and offers increased incentive for greater reductions. Today’s announcements build upon this proposal through a whole-of-government effort to advance cleaner aviation, as well as work in concert with bold actions taken by the aviation-related industries. Key federal actions include:
- A new Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge to inspire the dramatic increase in the production of sustainable aviation fuels to at least 3 billion gallons per year by 2030;
- New and ongoing funding opportunities to support sustainable aviation fuel projects and fuel producers totaling up to $4.3 billion;
- An increase in R&D activities to demonstrate new technologies that can achieve at least a 30% improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency;
- Efforts to improve air traffic and airport efficiency to reduce fuel use, eliminate lead exposure, and ensure cleaner air in and around airports; and
- The demonstration of U.S. leadership both internationally and through the federal example.
Building on today’s announcements, the Administration also plans to release an aviation climate action plan in the coming months, which will set forth a comprehensive plan for aviation.
The Administration is committed to transforming the aviation sector in a way that creates good-paying union jobs in manufacturing, improves the environmental quality for airport and airline workers, and unlocks rural economic opportunity for sustainable fuels from many different feedstocks and pathways. Taking these and other steps in concert with the aviation sector can drive innovation and support a growing market for cleaner fuels, while reducing and eventually eliminating aviation’s climate impact.
This transformation to a zero-carbon aviation sector will require coordinated innovation and leadership from the Federal government, aircraft manufactures, airlines, fuel producers, and airports. The new set of executive actions, federal programs, and private sector commitments described below will help set the sector on a path to net-zero emissions.
Launching New Aviation Climate Actions Across the Federal Government
Today, the Administration is launching a new Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge to inspire the dramatic increase in the production of sustainable aviation fuels, and to complement a broad set of actions the Administration intends to take to reduce aviation emissions in line with President Biden’s commitment to achieve net-zero economy-wide emissions no later than 2050. These actions include policy measures, technological advancements, and executive actions that will reduce domestic aviation carbon dioxide emissions and create good paying jobs within the decade. These efforts include:
Scaling up sustainable aviation fuel production to at least 3 billion gallons per year by 2030 by supporting producers
- Today the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are launching a government-wide Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge to meet the demand for sustainable aviation fuels by working with stakeholders to reduce costs, enhance sustainability, and expand production and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) that achieves a minimum of a 50% reduction in life cycle GHGs compared to conventional fuel. In addition, the challenge will adopt the goal of supplying at least 3 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and, by 2050, sufficient SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand, which is currently projected to be around 35 billion gallons per year.
- USDA will support U.S. farmers with climate-smart agriculture practices and research, including biomass feedstock genetic development, sustainable crop and forest management at scale, and post-harvest supply chain logistics. USDA will also support fuel producers with carbon modeling components of aviation biofuel feedstocks.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DOE will collaborate to identify data collection needs, assess technical information, and take other steps designed to expedite the regulatory approval process to support newly developed fuels and feedstocks that may be viable for inclusion as able to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) under renewable fuel in the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will make 14 grant awards with FY21 funds to the Aviation Sustainability CENTer (ASCENT) university center of excellence totaling more than $3.6M. This will support the sustainable aviation fuel approval clearing house in conducting evaluation testing to ensure that new fuels are safe for use.
- DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) recently announced $35 million for 11 projects developing feedstock and algae technologies for advancing the domestic bioeconomy and today announced additional selections totaling over $61M to advance biofuels and support reduced cost of SAF pathways, including 11 projects that are scaling up promising technologies to produce SAF.
- DOE Loan Programs Office (LPO) is offering up to $3 billion in loan guarantees. Commercial-scale SAF projects that utilize innovative technology and avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions and meet other program requirements may be eligible for loan guarantees under LPO’s Title 17 Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program.
- DOD funding, subject to appropriations, to certify the use of up to four additional SAF pathways already approved in the commercial market, as well as additional SAF pathways in the ASTM approval pipeline for warfighters.
Increasing R&D activities to demonstrate new technologies to achieve at least a 30% improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched the Sustainable Flight National Partnership to collaborate with the FAA and industry to accelerate the maturation of aircraft and engine technologies that enable a step-change reduction in fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions.
- The FAA is launching the third phase of its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) Program by awarding more than $100 million for aircraft and engine companies to develop and demonstrate aircraft technologies that reduce fuel use, emissions, and noise.
- Department of Defense (DoD) is investing in a range of initiatives to improve the efficiency of legacy aircraft and develop more energy efficient new aircraft. Some examples, subject to appropriations, include almost $900M for Air Force B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program, Army Improved Engine Turbine Program, Adaptive Engine Transition Program and Next-Generation Adaptive Propulsion Program, and Air Force Legacy Aircraft Drag Reduction Program.
- DOE, working collaboratively with NASA, is investing $115M to develop battery technologies that can achieve the energy density needed for both near term electric vertical take-off and landing and short-range consumer aircraft use cases, and may potentially achieve the energy density needed for long term longer range electric aircraft as well.
- DOE ARPA-E announced $16.5 million in funding for six projects as part of the Systems for Monitoring and Analytics for Renewable Transportation Fuels from Agricultural Resources and Management (SMARTFARM) program. These projects will develop technologies that bridge the data gap in the biofuel supply chain by quantifying feedstock-related GHG emissions and soil carbon dynamics at the field-level.
Improving air traffic and airport efficiency to reduce fuel use, eliminate lead exposure, and ensure cleaner air in and around airports
- Recently, FAA awarded $20.4 million in grants to reduce emissions and improve air quality at airports across the country. The awards will fund zero-emission airport vehicles, including their electric charging infrastructure, and will electrify the ramp equipment used to service planes at the gate.
- FAA introduced the Aviation Climate Research (ACR) program in the FY22 Presidential Budget Request for the FAA at a proposed $50M. Subject to appropriations, the ACR program will invest in research that has transformative impact potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation in support of the U.S. climate change goals.
- FAA is launching a new research project to develop a contrail avoidance tool to evaluate and optimize the benefits, costs, and practicality of contrail avoidance to minimize aviation climate impacts.
- To address local environmental impacts of aviation, including lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft, the FAA and the EPA will be working together to identify ways to reduce exposure to lead emissions and to reduce or eliminate lead from aviation gasoline.
Strengthening aviation leadership internationally
- With today’s announcements and the forthcoming aviation climate action plan, the United States is committed to asserting positive international leadership on aviation and climate change. As a country, we will re-establish U.S. credibility through ambitious domestic commitments and realistic action plans for implementing those commitments, demonstrate leadership on aviation ambition at the International Civil Aviation Organization by showing the world by implementing CORSIA transparently and effectively, and supporting adoption of a long-term aspirational goal for reducing aviation emissions. We will also engage with bilateral and regional partners to forge a diverse coalition of States committed to greater ambition and action on aviation.
Leading through Federal example
- The government as a whole has procurement power that can be used to support the sustainable aviation industry as federal employees return to travel. The General Services Administration is publishing a Request for Information on the Options to Increase Sustainability of Future Federal Air Travel. In this RFI the agency is seeking market research information about airlines’ commercial sustainability capabilities and offerings to inform the Government’s efforts to reduce the sustainability impacts of employee travel. The RFI will be released in October with responses due in November.
Commitments from Across the Aviation Sector
Industry collaboration is necessary to achieve a sustainable, decarbonized aviation sector. The engagement of the full ecosystem of aviation stakeholders will be critical to advance technological innovation, create new job opportunities, and contribute to the Administration’s economy wide goal of net zero emissions by 2050. New and recent commitments by airlines, aircraft manufacturers, fuel providers, and airports—in concert with government investment—will significantly reduce emissions by 2030 and put us on the pathway to a zero-carbon aviation sector.
Passenger Airlines Will Accelerate Adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Today, members of Airlines for America have pledged to work with the federal government and other stakeholders toward a rapid expansion of the production and deployment of commercially viable SAF to make three billion gallons of SAF available to U.S. aircraft operators in 2030. This new commitment will ensure progress this decade towards the industry’s overall goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Today’s announcement builds off the near-term commitment across the industry of carbon-neutral growth relative to 2019.
In support of Airlines for America’s new 2030 goal, several airlines have made specific pledges to ramp up use of SAF and advance sustainability across their operations:
- United Airlines announced a new goal to reduce its carbon emissions intensity 50% compared to 2019 in by 2035. United Airlines and Honeywell also announced a new multi-million-dollar investment in Alder Fuels to produce carbon-negative sustainable aviation fuel at scale. Under the agreement, Honeywell and Alder Fuels will jointly commercialize the technology that could demonstrate greater than 100% lifecycle GHG emissions reductions for aviation fuel. United Airlines has committed to purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of this new SAF over the next 20 years.
- Delta Airlines is committed to replace 10% of current jet fuel use with SAFs by 2030 and has agreements with three SAF producers, Neste, Gevo, and Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels. Delta also recently announced a new SAF emissions pilot project with Chevron and Google to increase industry SAF transparency.
- American Airlines plans to procure 10 million gallons of SAF from Prometheus Fuels by 2025 through a process that produces fuels from captured CO2 and renewable electricity.
- Alaska Airlines offers purchase of SAF to offset corporate travel on key routes and has agreements in place with SAF producers including SkyNRG Americas and Neste.
- Southwest Airlines is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Lab to develop and commercialize SAF.
- JetBlue is committed to electric and hydrogen aircraft development in partnership with Joby Aviation and Universal Hydrogen.
Cargo Airlines Will Invest in Innovation and Efficiency
In air freight, the Cargo Airline Association (CAA) members are advancing sustainability by purchasing new, fuel efficient aircraft, electrifying ground equipment, promoting and using SAF, and pioneering the use of electric short-haul cargo aircraft. Each company is incorporating climate considerations across their business, with specific actions including:
- FedEx is conserving fuel and improving the efficiency of aircrafts through their FedEx Fuel Sense® program while continuing to invest in the development of SAF.
- Atlas Air is driving operating efficiencies with their FuelWise program, which works in conjunction with flight planning software to optimize speeds, altitudes, routes, and flight path segments.
- Amazon AIR is investing in electrofuels, hydrogen fuel cell aircraft, and electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft development. Amazon Air has purchased 6 million gallons of SAF
- DHL Express has pledged to use 30% SAF by 2030 and is partnering with other stakeholders on a demonstration project in Northern Kentucky to produce and supply SAF to the region.
- UPS is investing in efficient, electric vertical take-off and landing aircrafts for moving smaller loads.
Partnerships Will Promote Transparent Airline Targets and Progress
Today, United and Delta Airlines are announcing their participation in the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), joining American Airlines, international airlines, and a wide range of companies across other sectors. SBTi works with companies to set rigorous, science-based emissions reduction targets and empower suppliers and customers to follow suit on climate action. Participating airlines have committed to make meaningful and measurable progress on ambitious targets. American Airlines became the first U.S. airline to commit to develop a science-based target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, supporting its existing commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
To support increased market demand for SAFs, RMI and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), launched the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) in April 2021 with founding companies Bank of America, Boston Consulting Group, Boeing, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Netflix and Salesforce.
Fuel Providers Will Scale Up SAF Production
Current levels of domestic SAF production are approximately 4.5 million gallons per year, with the industry poised to grow rapidly. To meet the challenge of scaling up to billions of gallons over a decade, both policy support and producer commitments will be critical to driving domestic innovation and deployment. Scaling up domestic SAF production will involve a wide variety of different feedstocks and pathways, and the industry will continue to explore a diverse set of options, including the potential to convert biofuels such as ethanol into jet fuel. To help achieve our 2030 goals, several fuel providers have announced domestic SAF production targets:
- LanzaJet plans to produce 1 billion gallons of SAF per year 2030 from ethanol derived from waste sources by Alcohol-to-Jet processing.
- World Energy plans to produce 150 million gallons of SAF per year by 2024 from fats, oils, and greases by hydroprocessing.
- Gevo plans to produce over 150 million gallons of SAF per year by 2025 from crop residue to ethanol by Alcohol-to-jet processing.
- Fulcrum plans to produce more than 33 million gallons of SAF per year by 2022 from MSW processed by Fischer-Tropsch processing.
- Velocys plans to produce 300 million gallons of blended SAF per year from waste woody biomass and MSW processed by Fischer-Tropsch processing.
- Additional recent and new announcements of potential SAF production scale-up include those from BP, Virent, Honeywell, Shell, Neste, Marquis, Green Plains Inc., ADM, Prometheus, Aemetis, and members of the Renewable Fuels Association and members of Growth Energy.
Airports Will Improve Operational Efficiency and Support SAF Fueling
Many airports have committed to sustainable operations. The members of Airports Council International- North America (ACI-NA) have joined in the commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, an industry-wide goal announced in May. Progress toward this goal will not only mitigate the aviation sector’s climate impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve the local environment for airport workers, nearby residents, and the broader region that utilizes air transport for passenger and cargo travel.
SAF is already commercially available and regularly used on passenger flights at Los Angeles, CA (LAX) and San Francisco, CA (SFO); and several airports are pursuing the infrastructure required to enable SAF deliveries in the future. Many airports are pursuing operational efficiency and emissions reduction efforts. Industry-leading examples include:
- Indianapolis, IN (IND) has one of the largest solar farms on any airport property in the world, in addition to being a leader in electric airport shuttle bus fleets.
- Philadelphia, PA (PHL) has established comprehensive air quality initiatives and launched a series of energy efficiency and benchmarking initiatives that include terminal facilities and ground support equipment.
- Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) generates 7 percent of its energy from renewable sources, including on-site solar.
- San Diego, CA (SAN) is the first U.S. airport to establish a regular sustainability report in order to measure progress on a range of environmental goals.
- Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (DFW) has set a goal of achieving Net Zero Carbon by 2030.
- A number of U.S. airports have individual road maps to achieve net zero emissions and are actively participating in the Airport Carbon Accreditation certification program.