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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a report on March 27, 2023, entitled Sustainable Aviation Fuel: Agencies Should Track Progress toward Ambitious Federal Goals. According to GAO, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production and use in the United States have increased in recent years; this fuel is now used by airlines at two major commercial airports in California. GAO states that while U.S. production reached 15.8 million gallons in 2022, it accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the total jet fuel used by major U.S. airlines, “fall[ing] well below the previous Federal Aviation Administration goal for U.S. airlines to use 1 billion gallons of SAF per year by 2018.”
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the aviation sector, the White House announced an SAF Grand Challenge in September 2021. The Grand Challenge goal is to supply three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and 100 percent of expected domestic commercial jet fuel use by 2050. GAO was asked to review the federal role in SAF. GAO’s report discusses the state of SAF production and use for the U.S. commercial aviation industry and factors shaping this market, identifies how federal agencies have supported SAF, and assesses how they will monitor progress toward Grand Challenge goals. According to GAO, the roadmap published by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not establish performance measures to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of these actions. GAO states that without performance measures, the agencies are not well positioned to evaluate the effectiveness of federal government actions to meet the Grand Challenge goals. In contrast, according to GAO, establishing and using such measures can help identify progress on the extent to which SAF is contributing to emission reductions.
GAO recommended that DOT, DOE, and USDA develop and incorporate performance measures into the Grand Challenge roadmap. According to GAO, DOT and USDA concurred. DOE indicated the recommendation is completed and that planned roadmap activities will enable progress to be measured. GAO notes that as discussed in its report, it disagrees that the recommendation is completed.

Tags: GAO, Aviation, Fuel, GHG


By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On February 16, 2023, Representative Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a legislative package that includes bills regarding researching the potential of biofuels to power jet engines and developing a commercially viable fuel cell system for cars and trucks powered exclusively by biofuels. The package includes:

  • The Comparison of Sustainable Transportation (COST) Act would direct the Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the U.S. Secretary of Energy to compare the financial and environmental costs between replacing the entire federal gasoline-powered fleet with either electric vehicles or E-85 capable flex-fuel cars and trucks;
  • The Biojet Fuel Research Act would direct the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish a working group focused on identifying research and development needs to produce biojet fuel. The working group would consist of the Bioenergy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), biorefinery stakeholders, agriculture research universities, and others; and
  • The Biofuel Cell Research Act would direct the DOE Secretary to establish a research, development, and demonstration program for a commercially viable fuel cell system that uses biofuels as the main fuel source.

Feenstra introduced similar legislation in the 117th Congress.


By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) will hold a webinar on February 22, 2023, entitled “DOE’s Progress Toward Meeting the Goals of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge.” The Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge is a government-wide commitment to scale up production of SAF to 35 billion gallons per year by 2050 and reduce lifecycle aviation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent compared to conventional fuel. According to BETO, the upcoming webinar is an effort to increase SAF awareness and communicate the progress and impact of the SAF Grand Challenge. Attendees will learn about DOE’s focus on:

  • SAF priorities and program alignment with the SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap;
  • Implementation planning; and
  • Stakeholder engagement and outreach.

The webinar will feature speakers from BETO, including Director Dr. Valerie Reed, who will share information about the six action areas outlined in the Roadmap that support the Grand Challenge goals. Scheduled BETO speakers include:

  • Dr. Valerie Reed: Director -- Program Overview;
  • Zia Haq: Senior Analyst -- SAF Overview and Enabling End Use;
  • Dr. Art Wiselogel: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow -- Feedstock Innovation;
  • Dr. Ian Rowe: Technology Manager, Conversion Research and Development (R&D) -- Conversion Innovation;
  • Dr. Mark Shmorhun: Technology Manager, Systems, Development, and Integration -- Building Regional SAF Supply Chains;
  • Andrea Bailey: Technology Manager, Data, Modeling, and Analysis -- Policy and Valuation Analysis; and
  • Sheila Dillard: Communications Lead -- Communicating Progress and Building Support.

Attendees can submit questions prior to the event, no later than February 17, 2023, by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) will hold a webinar on December 13, 2022, on the “SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap: Soaring Towards Sustainable Fuel Production Goals.” Attendees will learn about the six action areas that support the Grand Challenge’s goals of:

  • Reducing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50 percent compared to conventional fuel;
  • Producing enough sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050; and
  • Enhancing fuel sustainability.

The webinar will feature the director of BETO and speakers from DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who will discuss engaging with industry to achieve these goals. Speakers will include:

  • Valerie Reed: Director, BETO;
  • Zia Haq: Senior Analyst, BETO;
  • Craig Brown: Bioenergy Systems Technical Integration Lead, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and
  • Mark Shmorhun: Technology Manager, Systems, Development, and Integration, BETO.

Registration is now open.


By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on the production of cost-effective and low-carbon biofuels. DOE aims to advance technologies to replace petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation, such as airplanes and ships.
DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that, although heavy-duty vehicles in the transportation sector such as planes and ships are difficult to electrify, decarbonizing transportation is a critical part of the path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Also as part of the SAF Grand Challenge, DOE signed on September 8, 2021, a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The memorandum formalizes the DOE, DOT, and USDA’s collaborative efforts on the required research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to reach the goals of supplying at least three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050.
DOE selected 22 projects to receive the available funds administered by its Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The projects target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D to increase foundational knowledge and scale up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs, covering five topic areas:

  • Scale-Up of Biotechnologies;
  • Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion;
  • Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion;
  • Residential Wood Heaters; and
  • Renewable Natural Gas.

Additional information about the selected projects is available here.


By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On March 28, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the publication of the report on the current state of alternative aviation fuels that was developed using findings from peer-reviewed studies, scientific working groups, and BETO stakeholder input from the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop in September 2016.  The four key topic areas include:

■  Economic and technical competitiveness;
■   Fuel conversion and scale-up;
■  Environmental sustainability and life-cycle benefits; and
■  Feedstock and product supply chains.

Information gathered during the workshop, such as best practices to finance production facilities, effectively scale biorefining technologies, optimize production economics, and streamline certification processes, will be used to advance the understanding of technical barriers limiting the competitiveness of aviation biofuels.  Many public- and private-sector organizations have committed to adopting biobased aviation fuels because, unlike passenger vehicles, airplanes cannot be fueled with electricity yet.  More information on the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop is available in the Biobased and Renewable Product Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “DOE Hosts Alternative Aviation Fuels Workshop, New LUC Emissions Research Discussed.”


On September 14-15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a two-day workshop with lead experts on aviation biofuels exploring opportunities to increase competitiveness of alternative jet fuels. The Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop was organized in four parallel breakout sessions covering the economic and technical competitiveness, fuel conversion and scale-up, environmental sustainability and life-cycle benefits, and feedstock and product supply chains of lignocellulosic biomass based aviation biofuels. During the workshop, Wally Tyner, a professor of Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, presented preliminary results from his team's research into greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of soybean based biodiesel. The study focuses on biofuels-induced land use change (LUC) emissions, critically finding that emissions could be as much as 70 percent lower than previously thought (based on induced land use change emissions recently adopted by the California Air Resources Board). Tyner's team used the most recent version of the Global Trade Analysis Project model that reflects changes in agriculture and biofuel that occurred between 2004 and 2011. This model includes expanded biofuel policies as well as improvements in agriculture efficiency such as double cropping. The combination of advancing LUC emissions science and improved agricultural practices are continually increasing confidence in the real environmental benefits of biobased fuels.



On October 22, 2014, Boeing and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) opened the China-U.S. Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project, a demonstration facility that will turn used cooking oil into aviation biofuel at a rate of 170 gallons per day. This project will assess the feasibility of producing higher volumes of biofuel, as China has enough used cooking oil to make as much as 500 million gallons of biofuel annually. Working together since 2012, Boeing and COMAC support China's commercial aviation, and collaborate with Chinese universities and research institutions to further knowledge on aviation oil and other efficiency improvements. More information can be found in Boeing's press release about the Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project.


DOE will reportedly join the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) "Farm to Fly" initiative to help promote the development and use of sustainable aviation biofuels. Under the initiative, USDA, Boeing, and the Air Transport Association of America are working together to accelerate the availability of commercially viable and sustainable aviation biofuels in the United States to increase domestic energy security, establish regional supply chains, and support rural development. The initiative was renewed in 2013 for another five years. More information on the "Farm to Fly" program is available online.

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