Article image

Plant-based jet fuel could reduce carbon emissions by 68 percent

According to a new study led by the University of Georgia, replacing petroleum-based aviation fuel with a plant-based fuel derived from Brassica carinata, a species of mustard plant, could reduce carbon emissions by 68 percent.

Currently, the aviation industry emits 2.5 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and is responsible for 3.5 percent of global warming. In September of 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden set the goal of a 20 percent drop in aviation-related emissions by 2030 and a 100 percent drop by 2050. 

According to the scientists form the University of Georgia, using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) derived from the non-edible oilseed crop Brassica carinata would easily make Biden’s goal feasible.

“If we can secure feedstock supply and provide suitable economic incentives along the supply chain, we could potentially produce carinata-based SAF in the southern United States,” explained study lead author Puneet Dwivedi, an associate professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.

“Carinata-based SAF could help reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector while creating economic opportunities and improving the flow of ecosystem services across the southern region.”

Professor Dwivedi plays an important role in the Southeast Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC), a $15 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In the context of this project, during the past four years, researchers investigated how to optimally grow carinata in the Southeast. 

“In the South, we can grow carinata as a winter crop because our winters are not as severe compared to other regions of the country,” explained Dwivedi. 

“Since carinata is grown in the ‘off’ season it does not compete with other food crops, and it does not trigger food versus fuel issues. Additionally, growing carinata provides all the cover-crop benefits related to water quality, soil health, biodiversity, and pollination.”

Dwivedi’s current research aims to model the economic and environmental feasibility of producing and consuming carinata-based SAF in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

 “I am looking forward to pursuing more research for providing a sustainable alternative to our current model of air travel. Carinata has the potential to be a win-win situation for our rural areas, the aviation industry, and most importantly, climate change,” he concluded.

The study was published in the journal GCB-Bioenergy.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day