Richard Branson group, Delta partner on renewable jet fuel venture

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Delta Air Lines Inc. is partnering with a nonprofit group founded by billionaire businessman Richard Branson to speed up the development of renewable jet fuels.

Branson’s group, the Carbon War Room, announced the new partnership yesterday. In a news release, Delta and the Carbon War Room said they agreed that advancing the development of renewable jet fuel would help the airline industry reduce its carbon footprint, meet customers’ green demands and reduce price volatility.

“By joining, Delta is further elevating its commitment to environmental sustainability and supporting real action to face the most important challenge of our time,” Carbon War Room President José María Figueres said in a statement.

The Carbon War Room was formed in 2008 with the goal of battling climate change by focusing on market barriers that are preventing the commercialization of low-carbon technology.

Until now, Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. has been the only airline partner. Other partners include Sapphire Energy Inc. and SkyNRG, producers of renewable jet fuel.

Delta called the partnership a “great step forward” in its efforts to increase airline industry sustainability.

“Delta recognizes that our commitment and responsibility extends well beyond our customers and includes being good global corporate citizens,” said John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president for corporate safety, security and compliance.

Delta says it supports the aviation industry’s goals of increasing fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent a year by 2020 and reducing net emissions 50 percent by 2050 relative to a 2005 base line.

But the airline has also recently taken heat from biofuel advocates for pushing for changes to the renewable fuel standard on behalf of its refinery, Monroe Energy LLC, which has had to pay high compliance costs under the standard. Delta is the only airline to own a refinery (Greenwire, Oct. 2, 2013).

U.S. EPA opened the renewable fuel standard to renewable jet fuel last year, allowing refiners to receive credit for purchasing it and mixing it in with petroleum-based fuel.