Google joins Amex-Shell’s business travel SAF program

In a move to turn its operations carbon neutral by 2030, Google has joined the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) program powered by Shell Aviation and American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GTB).

The voluntary program is carried out via Avelia, a platform that uses blockchain to track airlines using SAF for business travel. The program rewards travelers with credits for their carbon reduction efforts accordingly, Airport Technology reports.

“The use of SAF will play a critical role in helping the aviation sector on its path to decarbonize. Joining the program further represents Google’s continued efforts to accelerate the global transition to a carbon-free future,” said Google’s climate and energy director, Michael Terrell.

Google is the latest addition to the Avelia platform, following in the footsteps of other large companies like the Bank of America, Delta, Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, and Japan Airlines.

Why do we need SAF?

Despite the “relatively small share of global emissions,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) shares concerns about aviation – namely, the challenges of decarbonizing the industry.

To achieve the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, IEA suggests the industry as a whole push for technology innovation – from SAF implementation to improvements to engines and aircraft as well as manufacturing and other operations.

“In 2022 aviation accounted for 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, having grown faster in recent decades than rail, road or shipping,” IEA said. “Aviation emissions in 2022 reached almost 800 Mt CO2, about 80% of the pre-pandemic level.”

IEA adds that by 2027, only 1-2% of the fuel used by the aviation industry will be SAF.

According to Rachel King, Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) CEO, using SAF instead of fossil fuels can reduce emissions produced by commercial airlines by a whopping 80%.

BIO members LanzaTech and Velocys have already hopped on board and work hard to reduce carbon emissions, noted King.

Shell is also optimistic. The energy giant said the Avelia program will likely attract investment in new refineries and technologies, adding “supply can rise to meet the new demand.” Shell announced a $1.48 billion investment in a biorefinery last year, the first step of the company’s efforts for energy transition.

How the public sector is advancing SAF

The Biden administration has also been pushing for wider SAF use. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the SAF Grand Challenge, a roadmap to make 3 billion gallons of SAF available annually by 2030.

Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes provisions showing support for SAF development. The legislation invests “$369 billion in American energy security,” noted Erick Lutt, Senior Director, Federal Government Relations at BIO.

The IRA also includes tax credits for companies selling or using SAF. “That’s a significant political victory, and we’re very excited about that,” Lutt said. “We were one of the first organizations out there supporting the creation of the sustainable aviation fuel tax credit.”

BIO is also pushing for the inclusion of SAF incentives in the 2023 Farm Bill.

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