It’s no secret that air travel is one of the biggest carbon contributors of any long distance dive trip. But thankfully, according to a report by Travel Weekly, the airline industry is beginning to take action.
According to the report, Boeing, one of the world's leading air travel companies, has announced a goal to change all of its aircraft, including existing planes, to a 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by the year 2030. This move would significantly increase the airline industry's ability to control and reduce emissions.
Current regulations cap the legal amount of SAF used for flight at no more than 50% of a plane's total fuel. Rather than using an entirely sustainable alternative, SAF is instead currently required to be mixed with standard kerosene-based jet fuel. But when used on its own, SAF can deliver up to an 80% reduction in emissions on every flight!
Previously the airline industry pledged to reduce emissions by 50% between 2005 and 2050, but in the face of public pressure, some individual airlines are making even stronger commitments to change. SAF is currently seen as the fastest way for the industry to reach this goal, especially for medium-range and long-haul flights. Other sustainable alternatives, like battery power, may be employed for shorter journeys. Hydrogen power is also getting a lot of attention, but this potential power source is still awaiting further development.
IATA estimates that the production of SAF is currently 13 million gallons annually. This accounts for just a tiny fraction of the approximately 80 billion gallons per year of fuel that global airlines were using before the Covid-19 pandemic. And, when you consider the fact that SAF is primarily produced using various feedstocks including animal fats, vegetable oils, forestry residue, and garbage - it's easy to see how its production could reduce our planet's problem with waste, as well.
While SAF can already be used to power aeroplanes, a few key characteristics can lead to engine problems if used unblended. For example, some forms of SAF could cause engine tank seals to shrink, leading to fuel leakage. Workarounds such as using different seals or blending multiple types of SAF will become absolutely essential as the industry moves closer to its goal of creating approved forms of SAF - usable in both existing and future aircraft.