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June 14, 2024
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Just a few years ago, IATA embraced Net Zero, and anyone in commercial aviation who questioned this was at least a gadfly or worse.  The new religion was green, and nobody could oppose it.  Europe was the biggest adopter of this thinking, and it coincided with rivers running dry.

We were told the future would be hydrogen, batteries, and SAF. OEMs came out with creative new designs, except Boeing, the oldest OEM, which has seen fads come and go. They stuck with SAF.

The Institute for Policy Studies published a report that adds to the growing green backlash. A report co-author, Chuck Collins, said, “To bring these fuels to the scale needed would require massive subsidies. The trade-offs would be unacceptable and would take resources away from more urgent decarbonization priorities.”

The report criticizes private jet users: “…the private jet industry is facing a reckoning over its massive carbon footprint. After all, private jets emit 10 to 20 times more pollutants per passenger than commercial planes. According to one estimate, U.S. private jets emitted more than 16 million metric tons of carbon in 2022.”

The authors go on to say: “There is currently no realistic or scalable alternative to kerosene-based fuels that would meet current aviation needs, let alone the industry’s projections of future growth. At present, SAF technologies would fail to meet U.S. climate goals by the target year of 2050.”

We noted previously the European Commission’s new ReFuel rule and its impact on airline operations.

In January, we extensively chatted with Patrick Edmond about the growing realization that the green policies and talk were unrealistic.

The requirement for a functional commercial aviation industry cannot be dismissed.  It is a golden thread woven into the global economy, connecting everything. We damage that to our economic peril.

Therefore, all available ideas, including hydrogen and batteries, must be pushed forward. SAF is step one, though.  However, the report notes: “In 2022, the U.S. produced just 15.8 million gallons of SAF. Meeting the Biden administration’s 2030 SAF production target of 3 billion gallons per year would require an 18,887 percent production increase over the next six years. To meet the 2050 target of 35 billion gallons, production would have to increase a whopping 227,400 percent over 2022 production levels.”  So, it’s not a great outlook.

In 2007, IATA announced an aggressive climate goal, asserting that SAF would account for 10% of all jet fuel consumed by the aviation sector within a decade. IATA has repeatedly lowered that benchmark. SAF accounts for just 0.2% of the total jet fuel supply.

People in the commercial aviation silo would do the industry a huge favor by speaking truth to power – Net Zero is not going to happen by 2050.  Fossil fuels will provide the energy to keep this industry aloft.  The other ideas are coming and may even be deployed before 2050.

However, the reality is that greenwashing does not help anyone in commercial aviation.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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