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Fat, sugar, trash: All the weird things that may fuel planes by 2050

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By illuminem briefings 🌎

· 2 min read


illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on the Washington Post discussed source or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: A groundbreaking flight across the Atlantic powered by unconventional fuel sources such as fat and sugar marks a significant milestone in the airline industry's quest for sustainability
Major airlines, including American, Delta, and United, aim to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050, focusing on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) as a key strategy due to the current technological limitations of electric-powered flight

🔭 The context: Air travel contributes to 2% of global carbon emissions, lagging behind other sectors in reducing reliance on fossil fuels. The transition to SAF is challenged by insufficient production to meet demand, with less than 0.2% of U.S. airline fuel needs covered by sustainable sources in the past year
The Biden administration targets 100% SAF by 2050, requiring innovative fuel production methods from diverse and sometimes unconventional sources.

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: The shift to SAF is crucial for reducing the aviation industry's carbon footprint, but achieving this goal involves navigating complex trade-offs
These include environmental concerns with certain biofuels, the scalability of alternative sources, and the potential for new environmental challenges
The diverse potential sources of SAF—from waste products to cellulosic crops and synthetic fuels—highlight the need for a multifaceted approach to sustainable fuel production.

⏭️ What's next: The development and scaling of SAF technologies are essential for meeting the airline industry's climate goals
This includes advancing biofuel technologies, exploring the potential of waste and non-food crop sources, and investing in cutting-edge methods like synthesizing fuel from green hydrogen
The success of these initiatives depends on overcoming technological, economic, and environmental challenges to create a sustainable and scalable supply of jet fuel.

💬 One quote: "There’s a really wide range," said Nikita Pavlenko, fuels team lead at the International Council for Clean Transportation, emphasizing the variety of potential sources for SAF and the challenges associated with each.

📈 One stat: "Last year, the United States produced enough sustainable fuel to meet less than 0.2 percent of the airline industry’s jet fuel consumption," illustrating the current gap between SAF production and the industry's needs.

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