The 2014 FIFA World Cup delivered some green news this week.  Brazil-based GOL airlines, partly owned by Delta, will fly 200 of its flights with renewable jet fuel during the 2014 games.  The jet fuel, produced by Honeywell, is a 50/50 mix of renewable fuel sourced from camelina oil, a non-food crop that grows on marginal lands, and traditional jet fuel.  Additionally, Delta Air Lines announced it is partnering with the Carbon War Room, a non-profit founded by Sir Richard Branson, in order to speed the search for global renewable jet fuel production.

According to Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room, the partnership between Delta and the Carbon War Room signifies that “Delta is further elevating its commitment to environmental sustainability and supporting real action to face the most important challenge of our time.”  The announcement is tinged with irony, as just last year, Monroe Energy LLC., a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, sued the U.S. EPA over compliance with the renewable fuel standard (RFS), arguing that the standard is an undue burden.  The U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Monroe’s suit in May of this year.  Additionally, Delta, along with another Philadelphia refinery, may have had undue influence on the proposed reduced renewable fuel volumes, announced last November (See May 30 issue of SBFF). 

Delta has been talking out of both sides of its mouth on renewable jet fuel for quite some time – and one can easily deduce its motivation since until recently, renewable jet fuel has been neither cost-effective nor realistic in necessary volume production for commercial air travel.  Yet, in 2009, the company signed on to greenhouse gas reductions as laid out by the International Air Transit Association (IATA), and Airlines for America, which include stabilizing emissions from 2020 onwards, and reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2050, relative to 2005.  More recently, they supported the first flights operated on biofuel, in late 2013, joining KLM, the Port Authority of New York, New Jersey and others in the effort.

Perhaps, they’ve seen the writing on the wall – mandatory carbon reductions from the burning of petroleum-based fuels are likely.  Renewable fuels reduce greenhouse gases; according to Honeywell, every gallon of camelina-based jet fuel reduces CO2 emissions by 68 percent, as compared to traditional jet fuel.   The camelina-based fuel is compatible with existing refineries and aircraft technology, and was developed with funding from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  Additionally, renewable fuels are now becoming cost compettive with traditional jet fuel. According to Ed Bastian, President of Delta Air Lines, “The potential for biofuel to contribute to our climate change strategy could be quite significant once issues of supply and cost are addressed.”  Delta is joining other major carriers such as Virgin, KLM, Siemens and roughly a dozen major jet fuel purchasers who now purchase under KLM’s Biofuel Program, begun in 2012. 


For more information see: 

Delta and CWR Support Renewable Jet Fuel, Carbon War Room

Honeywell Green Fuel Powers Word Cup Flights, Environmental Leader 

Delta Signs With Carbon War Room to Advance Renewable Jet Fuel, Biofuels Digest