LAS VEGAS—Business aviation is on the fast track to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but faces considerable hurdles, industry executives said Oct. 17.
“We’re doing it fast,” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen told the media kickoff breakfast at NBAA-BACE. “We’re doing it with a sense of urgency. We’re on a mission to net-zero.”
The heads of general aviation trade associations made the commitment to net-zero carbon emissions at the NBAA-BACE conference in 2021 and this year unveiled the “Climbing Fast” advocacy campaign to project GA industry leadership on environmental sustainability.
During a panel discussion at the breakfast, executives attested to progress toward the net-zero target but noted that several stumbling blocks stand in the way of achieving the goal, among them sourcing new feedstocks to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and rare-earth elements used in electric motor magnets. Most of the production of rare-earth elements now resides in China, said Monte Koch, chairman of the NBAA board of directors.
“The supply of materials needed to support all of these new (electric) vehicles is just not there,” said Koch. “Now we’re talking about planes and obviously, automobiles and it’s a much greater burden. In order to support this great future that is coming, we have to look at the underlying technologies.”
Now that automakers are producing more electric cars, there is an opportunity to transition away from using ethanol for gasoline to make it available to aviation as a feedstock for SAF, a possibility raised by both Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and GAMA Board Chairman Eric Hinson.
There are 15 billion gal. of ethanol produced in the U.S. annually, most of which is blended in automobile gasoline, Hinson said. Aviation consumes about 19 billon gal. of kerosene. “Ethanol is actually one of the potential solutions,” he said.
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