Boeing Commits to Making Airplanes Ready To Fly on 100% Sustainable Fuels

by Miro Korenha and Natasha Lasky

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, recently announced that all of its planes will be capable and certified to fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuels by 2030. The move was a response to mounting pressure felt by the aviation industry to reduce emissions and as Boeing explained in a statement, sustainable fuels offer the “safest and most measurable solution to reduce aviation carbon emissions in the coming decades. 

Why This Matters: Air travel is a difficult industry to overhaul for sustainability but cleaner fuels are key to achieving this goal as longer-range commercial airplanes will likely require jet fuel for the foreseeable future.  

Currently, regulations permit planes to use a 50/50 blend of sustainable and conventional jet fuels. If Boeing is able to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of sustainable fuels this could be an important step in moving the industry forward on climate action. 

As Bloomberg NEF explained, the aviation industry added more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019. In the United States, aircraft contribute 12% of U.S. transportation emissions, and account for 3% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas production. While air travel did decrease during the pandemic, before that air travel was expected to double in the next 20 years. It’s imperative that the industry finds a way to reduce its emissions quickly. 


Opportunities in Greening Air Travel:
Boeing said that its sustainable jet fuels can be comprised of inedible plants, agricultural and forestry waste, non-recyclable household waste, and gases released by industrial products. Yet the challenge will lie in finding sustainable feedstocks for this fuel that don’t jeopardize ecosystems. 

Boeing has been experimenting with sustainable jet fuel options since 2008 and in 2018, flew a Fedex 777 Freighter entirely on sustainable fuels, the first plane to fly without a conventional fuel blend. 

As a manufacturer of aircraft, Boeing joins Delta Airlines (the world’s largest airline), United Airlines, and JetBlue in a commitment to lowering carbon footprints. Delta pledged to become “carbon neutral,” by 2030 and planned to invest $1 billion in achieving the goal, while JetBlue announced that it would be the first U.S. airline to pledge to offset all domestic flights. United Airlines had previously committed $40 million to sustainable aviation development.  Meanwhile, British Airways owner IAGQantas and Etihad, as well as the entire U.K. aviation sector, have all decided to work together to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

If Boeing can achieve its goal of selling airplanes capable of running on sustainable fuels, it can become a more formidable competitor to Europe’s Airbus who has made a public commitment to being a leader in sustainable aviation

 

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