White House announces target of 20 percent aviation emissions reduction by 2030
The Biden administration on Thursday announced a series of industry-backed actions aimed at reducing the climate impact of air travel, with a goal of cutting aviation emissions by 20 percent by 2030.
The departments of Energy, Transportation and Agriculture will collaborate on a goal of meeting 100 percent of aviation fuel demand — around 35 billion gallons a year — with sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) by 2050. SAFs are defined as those that reduce lifecycle greenhouse gases by half compared to conventional fuels.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the SAF production targets in the executive actions would result in a 20 percent reduction in aviation emissions by the end of the decade and produce 3 billion gallons of sustainable fuel. The industry used about 18.3 billion gallons of fuel altogether in 2019.
The White House also announced 14 grants totaling more than $3.6 million that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will disburse to develop and test new sustainable fuels.
Meanwhile, according to the fact sheet, members of the trade group Airlines for America have pledged to collaborate on making three billion gallons of SAF available to plane operators by the end of the decade.
In a statement, Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, called President Biden’s approach overly reliant on voluntary industry cooperation.
“Biden’s deal with the airlines largely relies on biofuels aspirations that simply aren’t based on reality. Nothing in this deal holds the airlines to their promises, and even the best-case scenario doesn’t cut climate pollution fast enough,” Jones said. “More investment in efficiency is promising, but the Biden EPA needs to set strong airplane emissions standards now, not get mired in the myth of sustainable airline fuels.”
Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is one of the Biden administration’s major environmental agenda items. Individual carrier commitments include United setting a target of reducing its emissions intensity by half compared to 2019 by 2035. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, has secured deals with three SAF producers and set a target of replacing 10 percent of jet fuel use with SAFs by 2030.
The reconciliation package and bipartisan infrastructure bill before Congress would take numerous steps aimed at reducing transportation emissions, including promoting electric vehicles and increased rail transportation, but air travel remains one of the number-one sources of emissions. The aviation industry was the source of 860 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2017, with a plurality of 202.5 million tons from the U.S., according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
Updated at 6:13 p.m.