Major Airliner Launches $100 Million Fund For ‘Sustainable’ Jet Fuel Made With Used Cooking Oil, Household Trash

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United Airlines announced a $100 million investment in a “Sustainable Flight Fund” that will support startups and research into “sustainable aviation fuel.”

United will be joined by Air Canada, Boeing, GE Aerospace, JPMorgan Chase and Hoeywell, and customers on the United Airlines app will have the option to contribute to the fund as well, according to a United press release. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is typically made with used cooking oils and agricultural waste, but United hopes that additional research will find ways to use “household trash or forest waste.”

“I am genuinely a nerd about climate change,” United CEO Scott Kirby told The New York Times. “The implications are so dramatic, and there are all these tipping points that once you hit them they’re effectively irreversible.”

The project was not an attempt at “greenwashing” — a term referring to a company attempting to mislead the public about the environmental benefits of their products — but rather to build the SAF industry “essentially from scratch,” Kirby said in the company’s press release.  The fund will prioritize technology that would scale up SAF production, and companies can join the fund through United’s website.

While specific information about the fund is not being made public, United is responsible for 49% of the initial investment, United spokesperson Sam Coleman told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

SAF costs between two to four times as much as normal jet fuel, but tax incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act may help bring costs down alongside more substantial investments, CNBC reported. Kirby has made SAF development a key part of his leadership of United, which began in May 2020.

Despite this, SAF accounted for less than 1% of worldwide fuel consumption at United, the largest SAF consumer in the U.S., in 2022, the NYT reported. United has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but Kirby has committed the company to do so without using carbon offsets, which he considers to be “fraudulent.”

“Our challenge right now with aviation is that we know the solution is sustainable aviation fuel,” United chief sustainability officer Lauren Riley told the NYT. “We just don’t have a marketplace.”

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