GAO: Govt Should Monitor SAF Grand Challenge Progress

 - March 29, 2023, 1:34 PM
The White House's SAF Grand Challenge set lofty goals for the production of sustainable aviation fuel. Now the U.S. Government Accountability Office is recommending that the agencies on point for the project develop and implement monitoring criteria to determine whether industry is on track to meet those goals. (Photo: Curt Epstein/AIN)

In September 2021, the White House issued the SAF Grand Challenge, calling for U.S. industry to supply three billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel a year by 2030 and 35 billion gallons a year by 2050. Now, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended in a report to Congress that the government departments involved in the process develop and incorporate performance measures into their roadmaps indicating how they expect those goals to be reached.

When the Grand Challenge was announced, the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to accelerate research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities toward achieving the challenge goals.

The GAO was tasked with reviewing the federal government’s role in supporting the development of SAF production and assessing how those agencies will monitor progress. It found that while the supply of SAF has been slowly but steadily increasing, with 15.8 million gallons produced last year, it still represents but a microscopic percentage of the more than 17.5 billion gallons of fuel consumed by the major U.S. airlines as they return to pre-Covid activity levels.

The GAO pointed out that this recent goal setting was not the first time such plans were announced. In 2012, the FAA set a goal for U.S. airlines to use one billion gallons of SAF per year starting in 2018, which was not met.