Sustainable Aviation Fuel’s Success Could Depend On New Tax Codes


The fiscal future of producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) could depend on how the tax codes associated with crop-based biofuels are written. That was the message delivered at a recent SAF conference in Minneapolis by Todd Becker, CEO of ethanol-fuel manufacturer Green Plains Inc.

According to a Bloomberg report, makers of crop-based biofuels are advocating for full tax credits under the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act. Controversy over this move stems from disagreements on the methods used for tracking and evaluating emissions from SAF, which is derived from multiple materials, including recycled cooking oils. According to Becker, the U.S. ethanol providers are depending on SAF production to stimulate demand in the future, in part to counteract an expected decline in auto fuel consumption with the increase in the number of electric cars on the roads.

Farmers and politicians representing agricultural states are pressing for the federal government to adopt the U.S. Energy Department model, which provides tax credits for carbon that remains in the soil even after the crops have been harvested. Environmental groups, on the other hand, favor a more “rigorous” model incorporating the effects of alterations in land use resulting from greater production of biofuels.

According to Bloomberg, this model could scuttle the hopes of those who favor the latter plan, as it could fail to qualify for the lucrative tax credits. Becker is facing headwinds from a group of shareholders, Bloomberg reported, as he “attempts to show investors his goal of expanding Green Plains beyond a traditional ethanol maker and into new markets including SAF will pay off.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. So, this “sustainable” option that isn’t economically viable unless lobbyists can convince enough politicians to put their thumb on the scale at the taxpayers’ expense? Why is this so familiar? It’s like I’ve seen this show before… Oh, wait, that’s right, E85. And biodiesel. And solar power. And wind power. And, of course, let’s not forget electric cars. Let me see if I can predict the next plot: Politicians (who conveniently will stand to personally AND legally profit from the deal) will include the necessary subsidies, probably slipped in among the thousand pages of some “must pass” bill. IF they are questioned about it, they will plead that it is for the “children” and the “future” and that the people will “benefit” (somehow) “in the long run”. Then, a suitable number of “experts” will appear (on cue) to make the news show circuit and explain that the politicians are, of course, “right”. The after-credits bonus scene could be a scene at a posh DC restaurant where the the lobbyist, politician, news show host, and paid experts all gather for a nice celebratory (and possibly family) meal.

  2. We have 200 years of oil, then we have 600+ years of coal/natural gas we can convert to liquid fuel. WHY waste precious arable land and precious water on non-food? This is insane.

    • Given the amount of energy it takes to take a cow from an embryo to a hamburger, including growing, harvesting, preserving its food, then the preserving and cooking the meat, we’d all be better off as vegetabletarians.

      According to a research paper my brother wrote for a college English class several decades ago.

  3. The ever-present reference to recycled cooking oils is always a big red flag. Not enough to be significant, but is something people can relate to and thus, perhaps earn their ignorant support.
    A lot of recycling today is a scam. Most plastic ‘recycling’ involves collection, bundling, and shipping to a third world country where it is dumped or burned. Well I suppose the latter is technically recycling…

  4. As a mechanic by trade, I have seen the issues with both E 85 and bio diesel. Go ahead. Keep using it. Job security for yours truly.

      • With respect I can tell you what issues. The ethanol fuel we are stuck with due to government decree does not store well over time. I have had to overhaul carburetors on or replace all of my home lawn power equipment due to ethanol. E85 is the biggest ripoff every forced on to the public. Even the auto owners manual on a car I owned said your mileage would be reduced up to 50% of normal fuel. Go ahead and ask marine boat owners in Florida who were forced to use an ethanol blend. Complaints were so numerous due to delaminating of composite(fiberglass) fuel tanks that that state dropped the ethanol requirement. It takes much more energy to produce ethanol than what may be saved by its use. And it does not reduce emissions, just changes them to something else. Fortunately there are 2 gas stations near my home that sell pure gasoline. It is more expensive but worth it not to have to rebuild carburetors because of what E10-E15 will due to them over time. My guess is that there are lots of local mechanics who have to deal with this ethanol nonsense. As Mr. Karrpilot said, job security!

  5. This smacks of yet another subsidy for farmers. Taking food out of its proper use is insane. Meanwhile, the environuts pursue their agenda while millions are starving around the world. Since I read that the Secretary of Transportation wants us to stop driving cars I await his pronouncement that we stop flying, as well.

  6. The whole concept of putting food into our engines while leaving perfectly good fuel in the ground is grounds for a psychiatric admission.

  7. There’s a lot of negativity here, but SAF is the only way that we retain any semblance of our current way of life. If it takes ~50 billion in subsidies to make it happen then so be it. Carbon reduction in aviation is going to happen whether it makes sense or not.

  8. Only when ignorant, gullible, addled $heeple fail to realize the carbon output it takes to convert food to fuel.

    Criminal waste, supporters better not sleep soundly and realize that fal$e smug feeling is really just being $uckered.