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330M gallons or 1% of its fuel use: does a headline make a difference?

September 25th, 2016 · No Comments

In my twitter feed:

Wow, now this got me to click over to look at this Environmental Leader article discussing JetBlue’s ‘renewable fuel project’.

Perhaps in an effort to emphasize Jet Blue as an “Environmental Leader” (or, well, perhaps due to inability to move beyond a press release?), the article only provides a partial context. We learn that this will be “largest” …

one of the largest renewable jet fuel purchase agreements in aviation history, and the largest, long-term commitment by any airline globally for HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) based renewable jet fuel.

So ‘largest’ is part of the context.

There is an explanation, as well, that the “renewable fuel’ is 70% fossil-fuel based and 30% derived from renewable sources.

Looking at that article, however, there was a knawing question: how much fuel does JetBlue burn through per year? E.g., how much does this purchase represent in the entire airline’s fuel use pattern?

Not hard to find out. From here we learn that JetBlue burned through 639M gallons in 2014 and estimated a burn rate of 690M gallons for 2015.

For the decade to come, JetBlue aircraft might be expected to burn through 7 billion gallons of aviation fuel. This 330M gallons, therefore, will represent roughly five percent of the airline’s total fuel requirement. When we account for the 70 percent fossil fuel and 30 percent renewable, the actual ‘renewable’ displacement from this contract will be in the range of 1 percent.

I don’t know about you but “JetBlue to Buy 330 million gallons of renewable fuel” sounds far more impressive and news worthy than “JetBlue to displace 1 percent of fossil fuel use with renewable fuel”.

Now, important to give credit … first steps are that, first steps. It is important that we are moving from small, research-program sized ‘renewable fuel’ purchases to mainstreaming renewable fuel in the aviation industry. We should not, however, take these small steps forward as indicating problem solved …


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Tags: Energy