U.S. House panel discusses low-carbon fuel with airline, biofuel industries

Members of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee met on Tuesday with representatives from the biofuels and airline industries to discuss ways to expand production of low-carbon aviation fuel, the subcommittee chair said.

The meeting is part of a broader push by lawmakers to advance climate and energy legislation amid calls by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to rapidly slash greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050.

The aviation subcommittee of the Democratic-led House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met with low-carbon fuels provider World Energy, the Advanced Biofuels Association and Airlines for America, among others, two sources familiar with the meeting said.

The biofuels industry group represents about 30 companies and the airlines industry group represents about 10 airlines and delivery companies.

The virtual meeting was intended to brief subcommittee members about so-called sustainable aviation fuel, an alternative to traditional jet fuel that can be made using animal fat, used cooking oil and plant oils, Representative Rick Larsen, who chairs the subcommittee, said after the meeting.

Such fuels are considered more climate friendly because they help replace dirtier petroleum products while also providing new uses for wastes that would otherwise be thrown out.

“There’s not a lot of SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) being used right now relative to the U.S. demand for aviation fuel writ large, but there’s a lot coming online,” Larsen said. “The biggest effort from a policy point of view is to include the aviation fuel in the blender’s tax credit.”

The meeting focused on the need for consistent policy that would help expand the market, one of the two sources said.

Airlines and renewable fuel producers have promoted sustainable aviation fuel as a way to help reduce aviation industry carbon emissions, though it is currently expensive to make and would require subsidies to be competitive.

The Biden administration last month issued a new tax proposal that includes a blender’s tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel, which the Treasury Department said would enable “the decarbonization of a key portion of the U.S. transportation sector.”

Air travel contributes around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Air Transport Action Group, a coalition of aviation experts focused on sustainability issues.

In March, the aviation subcommittee asked the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to assess questions around sustainable aviation fuel including what role the federal government plays in facilitating its development and what U.S. laws or policies present barriers to its production.