Greg Walden Real Clear Energy
Let’s Further America’s Energy Innovation By Supporting Sustainable Aviation Fuel
June 5, 2024
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  • During times of challenge, it’s easy to focus on what’s wrong in our country. We shouldn’t lose sight of our successes, however. Contrary to what many may think, America is producing more oil, gas and renewable energy than ever before. Over the last decade, our nation has become a net exporter of fossil fuels. At the same time, we’ve unleashed a clean energy revolution that has created tens of thousands of jobs and reduced our carbon emissions. 

    Innovation has made America’s energy renaissance possible. Advancements in new, cleaner energy have strengthened our economy, helped make us energy independent and created a healthier environment. But that’s just a start. Today, we’re within reach of realizing truly transformative innovations in energy such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) that will increase domestic production, further our energy security and create new markets for industries like aviation that are essential to our economy. 

    Turning these promises into a reality requires federal policies incentivizing innovation and allowing energy producers the time it takes to scale up production to meet market demand. Without them, America risks losing out to our global competitors. Failure to act will also represent a lost opportunity to enhance our domestic energy supply chain. 

    Sustainable Aviation Fuel has emerged as the most effective way for America’s aviation industry to meet growing demand for fuel, achieve domestic energy security and reduce carbon emissions. SAF can be mass produced right here in the U.S., meaning we can rely less on imported jet fuel. 

    We can produce SAF from a variety of sustainable feedstocks such as agricultural crops, used cooking oil or even solid waste which creates new markets for American agriculture and bioenergy. Farmers across the nation have suffered from drops in income and crop receipts over the last few years. SAF creates new markets for farmers to sell their crops to biofuel producers, a reason why the agriculture industry and farm state lawmakers are so supportive of SAF.   

    SAF is also a cleaner source of energy than traditional jet fuel. SAF reduces aviation’s carbon footprint by emitting significantly lower levels of greenhouse gases than conventional jet fuel and can reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. Moreover, we can blend SAF with traditional jet fuel and use it without any modifications to existing planes. That means airlines can put SAF into use immediately. 

    The next few years are critically important for the future of SAF, yet significant economic barriers are preventing the immediate expansion of SAF. Demand for SAF far exceeds supply, and the relatively limited amount of SAF currently available is much more expensive than conventional jet fuel.  

    Despite tax credits and other government support, more—and longer term—federal assistance is needed. Seeing market opportunities, other nations are boosting production, imposing SAF mandates and procuring supply in attempts to corner the SAF market and undermine America’s leadership. 

    Like aviation itself, SAF was invented in the U.S. We pioneered the innovations that have made SAF a feasible, low-carbon alternative to traditional fuel. At a time when almost every issue is a partisan one, support for SAF is not. Expanding incentives for SAF enjoys bicameral, bipartisan support in Congress. Congress needs to increase incentives that will expand the production, distribution and consumption of SAF if we are going to realize its promise to clean energy and our economy. Doing so is good for our environment and will make our country stronger, more resilient and more energy independent than ever before.

    The Honorable Greg Walden represented Oregon’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also served as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.