On Nov. 30, 2023, the New York Times ran an article about the role bioethanol made from corn will play in building a market for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor submitted the following letter to the editor in response:
A November 30 article on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) suggested that crop-based inputs, like ethanol, could use up too much water for irrigation. The science shows otherwise.
The water required to produce ethanol fell almost 50 percent since the early 2000s. Today, production only requires 2.7 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol – compared to 13 gallons of water to produce one gallon of gasoline. And, unlike in oil production, most of that water is returned to the atmosphere as steam.
Indeed, the data shows that U.S. ethanol is an increasingly sustainable fuel on a lifecycle emissions basis. The most recent Department of Energy study, published by Argonne National Laboratory in 2021, found that corn ethanol has 44–52 percent lower emissions than gasoline. Argonne’s research also shows that, with climate-smart farming practices, ethanol-to-jet SAF can be 153% less carbon intensive than petroleum-based jet fuel.
Simply put, plant-based biofuels are the only sources of clean, renewable energy available in large enough volumes to decarbonize the skies. That’s an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.