10 September 2021

Biden Administration Proposals: Sustainable Fuels, Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the Aviation Industry

U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled an initiative to promote the production and use of sustainable fuel in the aviation industry on Thursday, September 9. This initiative includes a goal to cut emissions in the aviation sector by 20% by 2030 and is part of the Administration’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Thursday’s announcement includes the following key components that will help strengthen the United States’ position as a global leader in aviation and climate change.

  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge. This is a governmentwide program among the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, and multiple government agencies intended to spur research, development, and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The challenge sets a near-term goal of producing 3 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030, with a long-term goal to produce 35 billion gallons per year by 2050.

One noteworthy element of the Grand Challenge is the reference to the Renewable Fuel Standard program and the Administration’s pledge to expedite approvals for renewable fuel pathways in order to increase the variety of fuels that qualify for credits, or RINs, under the program.

  • Increased R&D for New Technologies to Improve Aircraft Fuel Efficiency. Over $1 billion across multiple government agencies will be allocated to public and private initiatives to develop and demonstrate technologies that reduce fuel use and increase fuel efficiency, including battery and new aircraft technologies.
  • Agency Actions to Improve Air Quality and Reduce Lead in Aviation Sector. The Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Aviation Administration will work to reduce lead emissions from the roughly 170,000 piston-engine aircraft in the U.S. and reduce or eliminate lead from aviation gasoline.

The members of Airlines for America (A4A), including both passenger and cargo airlines, have pledged to work with the Biden administration to advance this initiative. This includes airlines making specific pledges to increase their use of SAF and participating in the Science-Based Targets initiative, to set science-based emissions reduction targets. Likewise, to accelerate the supply of SAF, several fuel providers have announced domestic SAF production targets. The Administration also signaled an effort to support the use of sustainability metrics as a means of informing federal government procurement of aviation services.

Thursday’s announcement is the Administration’s second proposal aimed at increasing sustainability in the aviation industry. As part of the Build Back Better Agenda, Biden previously proposed an SAF tax credit to increase domestic production of SAF. The tax credit and broader Build Back Better Agenda remain under consideration in Congress. In the coming months, the Administration is also planning to release a comprehensive aviation climate action plan.

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