From the Lab to the Sky: Five Things to Know about Biofuel-Powered Flights

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Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy



February 11, 2022

From the Lab to the Sky: Five Things to Know about Biofuel-Powered Flights

On December 1, 2021, a United 737 Max 8 carried more than 100 passengers from Chicago to Washington, D.C.—just one of roughly 87,000 flights over the United States that day. Reporters and TV crews gathered to meet the travelers on the tarmac because this flight differed from all the others in one way: it left about 75% less carbon dioxide in its wake.

Using only sustainable aviation fuels developed with the support of DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the flight served as a first-ever demonstration of the performance of the renewable alternatives to traditional jet fuels. Although previous flights have been powered by some combination of sustainable aviation fuels and petroleum jet fuel, this flight was “a necessary demonstration of the performance of 100% sustainable aviation fuel and a milestone in our effort to decarbonize the industry,” said BETO Director Valerie Sarisky-Reed.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, aviation accounts for 9%–12% of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. With this turning point in aviation history behind us, government and industry are eagerly working to slash those emissions by expanding the use of this promising renewable fuel.

Here are five things to know about sustainable aviation fuel.