Should Planes Fly on Cleaner Fuel? The Case for SAF in the US

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Planes are aiming for zero emissions by 2050, but right now, there aren’t many options to cut down on pollution except for using new, cleaner airplanes. A special kind of fuel called sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) could be a game-changer, but not enough airlines are using it.

Europe is taking a big leap forward with SAF. They’re requiring airlines to use a growing amount of SAF, starting with 2% in 2025 and reaching 70% by 2050. They’re also helping out financially with subsidies to cover the higher cost of SAF.

Boeing’s newly manufactured airplane assembly line

In the US, things are different. We’re just offering tax breaks to companies that produce SAF, hoping that will be enough. However, this approach has a big downside – it relies on the government being in favor of SAF, which could change over time. This makes it risky for companies to invest in making SAF.

There are other reasons why a US mandate for SAF would be a good idea. Right now, airlines aren’t using much SAF because they’re worried about the cost. A mandate would make all airlines use it, creating a level playing field. Also, unlike new airplane designs, SAF can be used with today’s airplanes and infrastructure.

Of course, not everyone loves the idea of a mandate. Some experts argue that there might be even better solutions out there in the future, and a mandate could prevent us from finding them.

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