Aviation is currently the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in the US, and emissions are expected to continue to grow. It’s also one of the most challenging industries to decarbonize, due to the long lifespan of airplanes and the limited number of viable pathways for reducing emissions. The avenue that holds the most promise is sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), which can easily substitute as a drop-in replacement for conventional jet fuel. However the industry and SAF technologies are still nascent, and face significant economic and technological hurdles to scaling up.

Recognizing this challenge, the Biden administration has set a “SAF Grand Challenge,” with a goal of scaling US SAF production to 3 billion gallons per year in 2030 and 35 billion in 2050—a considerable ramping up from the current level of 4.5 million gallons per year. At scale, SAF could not only play a major role in fully decarbonizing aviation, but also offers other benefits including reduced local air pollution and considerable employment opportunities. Unlocking this potential will require significant new investment and long-term policy frameworks to jump-start the infant industry. In this report, Rhodium Group provides an overview of the current state of the industry and SAF technologies, followed by their estimates for the employment and economic benefits from scaling up SAF. It then discusses the challenges to scaling up SAF, as well as potential ways to help accelerate it.

Access the report “Sustainable Aviation Fuels: The Key to Decarbonizing Aviation” here