Environmentalists reject ‘false solution’ of sustainable jet fuel

Source: By InsideEPA • Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2021

A large coalition of environmental groups is pressing the White House and EPA to push for tougher aircraft greenhouse gas standards, and to reject biofuels as a means to curb carbon emissions, only days after the Biden administration announced a major push for more sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to cut GHGs.

In a Sept. 22 letter to President Joe Biden and EPA Administrator Michael Regan, 100 groups including many local organizations but also some national groups such as Earthjustice and Center for Biological Diversity call for EPA to take stronger action to limit aircraft GHGs, aiming for “zero emissions” by 2045.

The groups target the Trump EPA’s rule imposing first-time aircraft GHG limits that critics say merely entrenched the status quo and failed to make meaningful GHG cuts. Environmentalists and states are suing EPA to force tougher standards, but the litigation is on hold pending an EPA review of the Trump rule.

The groups say, “we write to urge you to move swiftly and decisively to replace the Trump administration’s existing do-nothing rule for greenhouse emissions from commercial aircraft . . . with an ambitious rule that will reduce climate pollution consistent with administration priorities, international leadership, and the urgency of the climate crisis.”

They say, “EPA should set a declining fleetwide average standard that (1) applies to aircraft in operation as well as new aircraft; (2) allows for reducing emissions through airframe and engine design and operational improvements; and (3) includes a ratchet mechanism to reduce emissions over time and achieve zero emissions by 2045 or sooner.”

Further, “the aviation industry has increasingly resorted to claiming it will achieve ‘carbon neutrality’ using carbon offsets and biofuels. These are false solutions on which the administration must not rely.”

The groups charge that “carbon offset schemes neither reduce [GHG] emissions nor toxic co-pollutants from airplanes that disproportionately harm low-wealth communities and communities of color.”

“Biofuels have not been proven to be carbon neutral or sustainable. For example, some jet biofuels derived from palm feedstocks increase overall greenhouse gas emissions when accounting for all factors of production, including land-use change. Biofuels can also perpetuate serious non-greenhouse gas environmental harms, such as increased water pollution, pesticides and sediments; increased fresh water scarcity; and degraded air quality,” the letter adds.

The Biden administration recently launched a push for more SAF to fuel jet aircraft in concert with the biofuels industry, announcing a series of sweeping measures across the federal government to boost SAF production. Several measures to boost SAF are also included in draft legislation that Democrats are considering for their multi-trillion-dollar budget “reconciliation” bill.

Yet, biofuels groups have warned that draft language advanced by Democrats on various House committees may undermine the proposed SAF tax breaks and other measures, and it remains unclear which SAF measures may survive the reconciliation process. The broader legislation hangs in the balance as progressive Democrats and their more centrist colleagues feud over the size and scope of the overall package.