American Airlines is doing the right thing by fueling flights with fast-food oil

Finally, a reason to feel better about downing that order of french fries.

That’s because — and we say this straight-faced — it’s apparently good for the environment. Fast-food restaurant cooking oil, among other waste products, is increasingly being repurposed into jet fuel. And big air carriers such as American Airlines are striking huge deals to buy it.

We’re glad to see these commitments and applaud the airline industry for its concern for the environment.

Earlier this month, American received its first batch of sustainable jet fuel certified by the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, which was developed by a group of global airlines to reduce carbon emissions. Although airlines have been using sustainable aviation fuels for a few years now, this was the first time an airline took delivery of the higher-standard, CORSIA-certified jet fuel, Fort Worth-based American said in a news release.

The batch was produced by the Finnish company Neste, the world’s largest sustainable jet fuel producer, which has partnered with about 200 restaurants at DFW International Airport to recycle their used cooking oil. And on Friday, American announced it had signed an agreement with Gevo Inc. to buy 500 million gallons of sustainable fuel over the next five years. Gevo’s fuel is made in part with carbohydrate sources such as corn, sorghum, beets and other agricultural products.

It’s all part of America’s goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Since 90% of the company’s carbon footprint is rooted in its use of jet fuel, replacing environmentally harmful fossil fuel with sustainable fuel is a big part of its strategy. American hopes by 2035 to replace 10% of the roughly 2.3 billion gallons of fuel it uses every year with sustainable fuel. In 2021 it used only 1.4 million gallons, or about 0.05%.

Not all of the airline industry’s motivation is based on concern for melting polar ice caps. Financial and industry experts think a carbon tax could be mandated in the next few years. And corporate boards are putting pressure on companies to take a closer look at their journey in evaluating how to reduce their own carbon footprints.

For its part, the sustainable fuel industry says it plans to significantly increase its production in the coming years. That will be necessary to fulfill the big contracts they’re striking with airlines.

But it has a very long way to go. To date, the industry has produced a total of only about 26 billion gallons of sustainable fuel.

There’s also a cost issue. The airlines are hoping that as the industry increases production and improves efficiency, prices will come down. While aviation fossil fuel costs less than $3 a gallon, sustainable fuel costs between $6 and $7 a gallon.

Despite the obstacles, we applaud American and other air carriers for making these efforts. Extreme summer temperatures these days seem to have much of the world talking about climate change. We note with optimism that sustainable aviation fuel is on the horizon, even if just one french fry at a time.

We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. See the guidelines and submit your letter here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *