Clean Aviation Fuels Check all the Boxes for Agriculture and America

Thanks to American innovation, we have the technology, sustainable feedstocks, and entrepreneurial spirit to build a world-leading clean aviation industry right here at home.

With the drums of war beating again in the Middle East, America faces a pressing need to secure stable, affordable fuel supplies that do not make us dependent on dictators and volatile foreign crude oil. Yet ample opportunities remain untapped in our own heartland. Advanced biofuels offer a path to build robust clean energy industries that strengthen our farmers, create jobs, and safeguard our energy security.

Now is the time to build support for rapidly scaling one solution in particular: clean aviation fuels (CAF), which encompass the entire universe of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from US-grown crops, agricultural co-products, and other renewable feedstocks, as well as captured carbon and hydrogen. Biomass-based SAF is the best decarbonization lever the aviation industry has right now on its journey to net zero, predominately because SAF can be used in current aircraft engines and because the infrastructure in the U.S. already exists to transport large amounts of it. Powering passenger jets with homegrown SAF rather than imported fossil jet fuel checks all the boxes for an America-first energy strategy.

Leveraging the natural bounty of America’s farms and forests without imposing new land or environmental pressures is an untapped resource for scaling SAF. These sustainable sources offer a reliable domestic substitute for the millions of barrels of petroleum-based jet fuel we import each day from unstable or unfriendly regimes. Our farmers can supply the feedstock, and American workers can refine it into secure, low-carbon jet fuel.

Scaling up the production for SAF and all CAFs will create tens of thousands of jobs in rural areas from feedstock harvesting to biorefinery construction and operations. These plants provide stable middle-class careers for American workers in agriculture, engineering, plant operations, logistics, and more. Most credible analyses of the US industry for these low-carbon jet fuels predict tens of thousands of jobs created as production ramps up to billions of gallons over the next decade.

Transitioning from jet fuel to SAF will also provide new revenue streams for farmers at a relatively flat commodity prices and high input costs. Early movers in the industry are already contracting with regional farmers to grow carinata, camelina and other dedicated energy crops for biofuel production. As the market expands, demand for these oilseed crops, along with corn, soybeans and agricultural residues will drive new income for rural communities.

Now, policymakers in Washington, D.C. must clear remaining obstacles to unlock the full potential of clean aviation fuel as an American energy solution. Passing, strengthening, and extending targeted tax incentives would incentivize investment in dozens of new biorefineries and regional feedstock supply infrastructure across the country.

This investment can pay dividends over time. America’s global leadership in biofuels innovation positions our country to dominate the future export market for clean aviation fuel. Europe, Asia, and beyond will turn to U.S. companies to supply sustainable jet fuel just as they did for our oil and gas. Through smart policy, we can replicate the shale revolution success story.

We have manifold reasons to lead the charge on CAF as a strategic American fuel choice. It promotes self-sufficiency and stability by reducing dependence on imported Middle East jet fuel that strains our trade balance and creates skilled manufacturing and agricultural jobs vital to our economy. It sustains American farmers with new revenue streams while avoiding diversion of food crops and does so without excessive regulation or costs.

The choice is clear. We can continue buying billions of barrels of imported petroleum jet fuel year after year, missing chances to reinvigorate rural America and break energy dependence. Or we can invest assertively in homegrown SAF and other clean aviation fuel production to achieve true fuel security, boost the farm economy, revitalize the nation’s heartland, and lead in the 21st-century energy race.

Thanks to American innovation, we have the technology, sustainable feedstocks, and entrepreneurial spirit to build a world-leading clean aviation industry right here at home. CAF checks all the boxes for a prudent, conservative, all-American energy strategy.

Originally shared by Kirk Leeds, Chief Executive Officer for the Iowa Soybean Association in the Des Moines Register, January 1, 2024.

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