Reprint 2013-27

Economic and emissions impacts of renewable fuel goals for aviation in the US

by Winchester, N., D. McConnachie, C. Wollersheim and I.A. Waitz
Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 58(2013): 116–128, 2013

(Supersedes Report 238)
(MIT News Story)


The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a goal that one billion gallons of renewable jet fuel is consumed by the US aviation industry each year from 2018. We examine the economic and emissions impacts of this goal using renewable fuel produced from a Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) process from renewable oils. Our approach employs an economy-wide model of economic activity and energy systems and a detailed partial equilibrium model of the aviation industry. If soybean oil is used as a feedstock, we find that meeting the aviation biofuel goal in 2020 will require an implicit subsidy from airlines to biofuel producers of $2.69 per gallon of renewable jet fuel. If the aviation goal can be met by fuel from oilseed rotation crops grown on otherwise fallow land, the implicit subsidy is $0.35 per gallon of renewable jet fuel. As commercial aviation biofuel consumption represents less than 2% of total fuel used by this industry, the goal has a small impact on the average price of jet fuel and carbon dioxide emissions. We also find that, under the pathways we examine, the cost per tonne of CO2 abated due to aviation biofuels is between $50 and $400.

© 2013 the authors

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