Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 24, 2022


John Fleming, (310) 405-1532,

Biden’s ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuel’ Goals Mired in Myth: Report

Diversified Efforts Needed to Decarbonize Aviation

WASHINGTON— Sustainability and supply issues will make it impossible to reach the Biden administration’s goal to meet 100% of U.S. jet fuel demand with aviation biofuels by 2050, according to a new report by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Today’s report finds most feedstocks being considered for so-called sustainable aviation fuels, or SAFs, would cause significant climate or environmental harm if devoted to fuel production. And the supply of feasibly sustainable fuels alone can’t meet Biden’s lofty SAF production goal.

“Once you examine the data, the aviation biofuels boon looks more like a boondoggle,” said John Fleming, Ph.D., a scientist at the Center’s Climate Law Institute and the lead author of the report. “Aviation is inarguably one of toughest sectors to decarbonize, but that’s exactly why we need a diversified, comprehensive approach. For Biden to put all our eggs in the biofuels basket is a reckless disregard of climate reality.”

After agreeing to keep do-nothing Trump-era standards for U.S. aircraft that fail to produce any meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the Biden administration announced executive actions last year to encourage the production of billions of gallons of supposed “sustainable aviation fuels.” The Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed this month also includes funding to boost SAFs.

The administration’s “Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge” set a target of sufficient SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand by 2050.

Based on current biofuel supplies, however, the Biden administration could only hope to meet 4% to 38% of the predicted 35-billion-gallon-demand in 2050. Moreover, their use by airlines would be entirely voluntary.

And while these biomass-based fuels are meant to reduce emissions by 50% compared to conventional jet fuel, many of the raw materials, or feedstocks, proposed for SAF production are anything but sustainable.

Food crop-based feedstocks, for instance, yield greenhouse gas emissions comparable to fossil fuels and create competition for food resources. Animal fats, animal manure and wood biomass, meanwhile, come from environmentally destructive industries and using them promotes these industries’ expansion.

Municipal solid waste, wastewater sludge and crop residues are potentially sustainable, but they don’t yield enough supply to meet Biden’s biofuel target.

“There’s only so much sewage sludge and crop cuttings, and most other biofuel feedstocks aren’t truly sustainable,” said Fleming. “Biden’s got to get serious about setting airplane emissions standards and advancing electrification, or else his aviation climate goals could vanish into thin air.”

Today’s report finds that to sustainably cut airplane climate pollution, the Biden administration must set strong airplane emissions standards that aren’t mired in the myth of sustainable aviation fuels. As outlined in the companion Center for Biological Diversity report Flight Path, true solutions include improving aircraft fuel efficiency, making operational and regulatory improvements, and ambitious advancement toward a fully electrified aviation sector.

The Biofuels Myth: Why 'Sustainable Aviation Fuels' Won't Power Climate-Safe Air Travel Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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