Cantwell, Aviation Leaders Call for Inclusion of Sustainable Aviation Fuel Investments in Infrastructure Package

Cantwell pushing to include new sustainable aviation fuel grant program and SAF tax credit in pending reconciliation bill. Jet fuel responsible for 8% of Washington state’s total greenhouse gas emissions; SeaTac striving to power every flight with at least 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2028.

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, joined local aviation and environmental leaders for a press conference at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to discuss the critical role Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) can play in transition to a cleaner and less carbon intensive economy. At the event, Senator Cantwell touted provisions she authored to create a new SAF grant program and tax credit included in the pending reconciliation bill.

The press conference took place just hours after the United Nations Secretary General released a statement challenging shipping and aviation industries to increase efforts towards decarbonization via alternative fuel sources.

"We know from smoky skies and record temperatures that we need to do more to address the climate crisis. [Air] travel is still one of the most carbon-intensive activities individuals can engage in. So, we're here today to talk about how the state of Washington can continue to be a leader in delivering on the market and development of sustainable aviation fuel," said Senator Cantwell. "Our main challenge now is to develop a dedicated industry of suppliers, refiners, and blenders who produce that fuel in significant quantities, and at the right price point. So, that is why we are supporting in the reconciliation plan, a new competitive grant program of $1 billion to the Department of Transportation. This funding would help build the infrastructure to produce sustainable aviation fuel and get it where it is needed." 

“Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has set a goal to be the greenest, most energy efficient airport in North America, and one of the most impactful way for us to achieve this vision is by powering every flight fueled at SEA with at least a 10 percent blend of SAF by 2028. Federal support is key to our efforts to help make these fuels cost-competitive, as a way to ensure both sufficient production levels as well as airline adoption. We thank Senator Cantwell for her leadership in ensuring that these vital resources are currently part of the Build Back Better Act,” said Fred Felleman, Port of Seattle Commission President.

“We're at the cusp of, of a really exciting growth opportunity in sustainable aviation fuel and the policies that you've heard both the SAF [Biofuel Tax Credit], as well as the effort under Senator Cantwell’s leadership to support infrastructure is a critical component,” John Plaza, President and CEO of SkyNRG Americas, Inc.

“In order to win on climate change in speed and scale, we need to be moving forward with solutions in every sector, at every corner of the globe. And it just turns out that our particular corner of the globe, here in the northwest and particularly here in Washington state, we are well positioned to help lead on one of the most important elements of the climate crisis, which is transportation. Aviation is a significant piece of the transportation puzzle. That's why addressing sustainable aviation fuels is so important for that solution,” said Gregg Small, Executive Director of Climate Solutions.

“Any advances in sustainable aviation technology should benefit workers here in the U.S. We count on the U.S. aerospace industry for good middle-class jobs. This grant program would create more high-tech, good-paying jobs in our communities and ensure that these jobs are incentivized to remain here," said Jon Holden, President and Directing Business Representative IAM District 751.

Currently, air travel accounts for roughly 2.5% of global carbon pollution and 11% of U.S. transportation-related emissions. Aviation emissions are projected to grow substantially and immediate action is required to meet climate goals. SAFs are environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum based jet fuel made from feedstocks such as oil seeds, wood waste, used cooking oil, algae, even garbage that can be used directly in existing aircraft. Compared to standard jet fuel, SAFs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 80 percent and produce significantly lower levels of local air pollution.

Washington state has been at the forefront of SAF research, development, and demonstration. As Cantwell remarked, Washington State has “already been a leader in aviation, so I’m sure we can be a leader in sustainable aviation fuel as well.” Scaling up regional production and use of SAFs would create additional economic opportunities for farmers, manufacturers, start-ups, and others in the biofuels supply chain and help maintain the aerospace industry that employs more than 250,000 jobs in our state.

The SAF and low-emissions aviation technology grant program included in the reconciliation package is a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT). It would allocate $1 billion to produce, transport, blend, or store sustainable aviation fuel, and to develop, demonstrate, or apply low-emission aviation technologies. The grant program is designed to support U.S.-based jobs by increasing the domestic production and deployment of SAF and the use of low-emission aviation technologies. The DOT grant program is open to state and local governments, air carriers, airport sponsors, accredited higher education institutions, research institutions, and companies.

Senator Cantwell has long been a Congressional champion of sustainable aviation fuels and lowering the carbon footprint of the aviation sector. In June 2021, Senator Cantwell introduced the Sustainable Skies Act and was incorporated into the Clean Energy for America Act, which advanced through the Senate Finance Committee on May 26. The legislation would create a $1.50-$2.00/gallon blender's tax credit for SAFs that achieve a 50% or greater reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional petroleum-based jet fuels.