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⚡ "Can Aviation Be Made Sustainable?"

The Energy Gang

Photo by Emanu / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Ed Crooks
Guests: Emily Chasan | Director, Communications | Generate Capital &
Amy Harder | Executive Director | Cipher
Category: ⚡Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[10:06] EC: “Clearly, aviation fuel is a source of emissions, I think it's 2%. That's actually a lot for just one industry. So sustainable aviation fuels are kind of a great hope for where we could be taking air travel. So sustainable aviation is a biofuel. It's constituted from maybe corn, or corn husks, or the kind of biofuel we put in our cars right now. And what's kind of really attractive about it is that you can use existing infrastructure from the airline industry, because you can just change the source of fuel or you could load their planes with a […] mixture of sustainable aviation fuel, rather than just complete fossil fuel. And it's possible for some of this to be renewable and produced sustainably. So Brazilian sugarcane is seen as a really great source of sustainable aviation fuel. Same with corn husk material and stuff that you can, you know, not use necessarily, but or would otherwise be wasted, and you could turn it into sustainable aviation fuel.”

[10:59] EC: “It's […] a problematic issue, because people aren't sure they want to grow crops separately for sustainable aviation fuel. They don't want to take away that space that might otherwise be used by trees or by the food supply. So the question of whether it can be produced sustainably is sort of one thing that's slowed it down a little bit. There was just recently the Swiss researchers that said they can produce sustainable aviation fuel from sunlight and air […] and it's a direct capture kind of form. So I think there's a lot of room for creativity, in using food waste, using animal byproducts. There's a lot of companies trying to focus on this space, because it's the easiest way to start to solve this problem in airlines. It would be a lot harder to put like hydrogen fuel cells on a plane or to put really heavy batteries on a plane.”

[13:30] EC: “The Biden administration has a new challenge to advance the future sustainable aviation fuels. And they're trying to run a challenge where they're saying, can you create the technology that's going to create billions of gallons of sustainable fuel by 2030? That's kind of […] to say, we have to figure out how to scale it up. What do we need to do to scale it up? Can we inspire some competition, like going to space? This is that kind of moment for it. […] The Department of Energy's offering up to 3 billion in loan guarantees. There's millions of dollars available for projects, developing feedstock and algae technologies.”

[15:58] AH: “My understanding with electric aviation is that that could really be a great solution for shorter flights. I think up to 50% of the flights in the United States are […] within the range that could be serviced by electric battery powered airplanes. […] But for the really emitting airplanes that are sending us to Africa to Australia, those are likely […] to need the drop in liquid fuels, which is why biofuels and sustainable aviation fuel is so important.”

[18:54] AH: “We have a term Breakthrough called the green premium, which denotes the difference between green technology versus their fossil fuel counterpart. And yes, for sustainable aviation fuel, it's three to five times greater in cost. […] But our founder, Bill Gates, said in a recent interview, late last year, that he's actually pretty optimistic for this type of technology to have the cost come down within something like five years, if the right steps are taken. And that's a big if.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 53 min | 🗓️ 01/14/2022
✅ Time saved: 51 min