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Airlines to benefit from farmer fuels

Sustainable aviation fuels can be made from ag commodities, offering a significant new market for farmers.

Flying the friendly skies remains – mostly – a popular past-time, but the airline industry is working hard to cut its carbon footprint. And while there’s growing interest in electric power for airplanes, that’s in the more distant future. For now, jet engines need to run on fuel but soon more of that fuel will come from alternative sources using crop feedstocks like corn or soybeans.

What could this market mean for farmers? And what are the challenges that make converting the airline industry to sustainable aviation fuels difficult? In this episode of Around Farm Progress, we turned to Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo, an energy company making a significant investment in sustainable aviation fuels. In addition, Gevo has already signed significant deals with major airlines to supply these fuels in the future.

Gruber talks about producing the new fuels, including work on a new plant in Lake Preston, S.D., which will break ground later this year. The key to this plant is not only the fuels produced but processes used to reduce the plant’s own carbon impact aiming to make the new fuels net zero for buyers, but perhaps even net negative – a story airlines like to hear.

He even discusses the importance of telling agriculture’s sustainability story, something Gevo does by taking airline executives out of the office and onto farms. It’s an interesting look at a potential new demand resource for farm commodities. Give it a listen.

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