Airlines, renewables companies push Biden to make air travel greener


    NEW YORK – US airlines and renewables companies are lobbying the Biden administration to back a big increase in subsidies for lower-carbon aviation fuel, arguing new incentives are needed to help fight climate change and will also make their recovery from the pandemic much greener, industry trade groups told Reuters.

    The push reflects the hefty price that US taxpayers may be asked to pay as President Joe Biden seeks to follow through on his plan to both decarbonize the US economy by 2050 and to help battered industries recover from the economic meltdown.

    Air travel contributes around 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Air Transport Action Group said. It is projected to grow rapidly in coming decades if airlines do not quickly switch to “sustainable aviation fuel.”

    This is made from biologically-sourced wastes like old cooking oil, animal fat and plant oils and is a much more expensive product than traditional jet fuel.

    The sustainable aviation fuel industry senses a political opening with the Biden administration after four years during which former President Donald Trump downplayed the threats from global warming and backed regulations that maximized fossil fuels development.

    “The difference is we’ve got an ear now that’s much more sympathetic to figuring out near-term solutions to policy, research and development,” said Bryan Sherbacow, chief commercial officer for low-carbon fuels provider World Energy.

    The National Air Transportation Association, which represents more than 3,000 companies across the aviation industry, said it was due to meet with the Federal Aviation

    Administration this month to sell an incentive for sustainable aviation fuel of up to $2 a gallon, which industry analysts estimate would be one of the priciest fuel incentives in the country.

    With a Democratic majority in the House of Representative and an evenly split Senate, White House support for legislation on incentives is pivotal.

    The FAA said in a statement to Reuters that it could not verify information about specific meetings, though it said it was a “strong proponent” of sustainable aviation fuels.

    NATA said it is also trying to meet with the Department of Transportation.

    Airlines for America (A4A), which represents US airline companies, including United, American Airlines and Southwest, said it has also been in contact with the Biden administration’s climate change officials to discuss expanding the sustainable aviation fuel market.

    Currently, A4A members use only about 1.5 million gallons of green plane fuel in the United States a year, out of a total commercial jet fuel market that exceeds 620 million barrels annually, based on data from A4A and the Energy Information Administration.