With an international flight looming, I've felt some pressure lately to make sure I'm doing all I can to reduce the impact of my travel. And I had time, while quarantining with Covid, to do a deep dive into the future of SAF, or Sustainable Aviation Fuel.
Air travel, depending on your sources, represents between 2-3% of global emissions. This sounds like small potatoes unless you're trying to take responsibility for your own carbon footprint. For individual travelers, the more we fly, the uglier our numbers. And we know that abolishing air travel is just not going to happen.
Even climate researchers have to get to the places they're studying, and for the rest of us, there are a lot of benefits to learning about the world through first-hand experiences. A Washington Post article published earlier this year suggested that if frequent flyers kick in for research and development of sustainable fuels, it would lead to a greener aviation future.
So, what exactly is SAF? According to the International Air Transport Association, IATA, it's a blanket term for airline fuel produced from any sustainable base, most commonly agricultural waste, used cooking fuel, or even landfill waste. And more and more airlines are utilizing SAF, but, sustainable fuels have yet to be developed and utilized on the scale that's necessary to make a real difference.
According to a CNN report, airlines have been able to utilize SAF without making any technological changes to their aircraft; however, the cost of the fuel itself has been calculated at 50% more than the cost of petroleum-based fuels. The technology and source materials to produce the SAF needs a jump start. How can we get that happen?
If consumers put more pressure on the airline industry and if the world would enact a carbon tax on fossil fuels, we could get a shift in the equation. I would like to be one of those pushy consumers, so about 100 internet clicks later I discovered RMI, Rocky Mountain Institute, and I'm excited to share what I've learned.
RMI is a non-partisan non-profit that has formed a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund to propel investment in the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance, SABA and to spur investment and use of SAF. Do you hear the angels singing?
According to their website, "RMI decarbonizes energy systems through rapid, market-based change in the world’s most critical geographies to align with a 1.5°C future and address the climate crisis. We work with businesses, policymakers, communities and other organizations to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% by 2030."
Since all of this sounds very, very good to me, I decided to kick in. I know it's just a drop in the fuel tank, but if all of us who are fortunate enough to fly did the same, could we drive up consumer demand and help bring this promising environment-friendly fuel to scale?
There is so much beauty in our world that we still have time to protect; why not try?
What climate-friendly hacks have you discovered lately? Please share; I'd love to hear about them!