GAO: Federal agencies should track progress toward SAF goals

By Erin Voegele | March 28, 2023

The U.S. Government Accountability Office on March 27 issued a report that includes recommendations on how three federal agencies can track progress related to the Biden administration’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge.

The Biden administration in September 2021 launched an ambitious initiative that aims to increase the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to at least 3 billion gallons per year by 2030. This SAF Grand Challenge also set a goal to produce enough SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation demand by 2050.

As part of the SAF Grand Challenge, the GAO was asked to review the federal role related SAF. The agency released its resulting report on March 27. The report discusses the state of SAF production and use for the U.S. commercial aviation industry and factors shaping the SAF market. It also identifies how federal agencies can support SAF and assesses how they will monitor process toward reaching the Grand Challenge goals.

Th complete its report, the GAO reviewed data on SAF production and conventional fuel use from 2016 to 2022. The agency also reviewed Grand Challenge documents and interviewed officials from four agencies selected based on their roles in SAF and interagency efforts. The GAO also said it interviewed 43 stakeholders on a range of SAF issues. Selected stakeholders included airlines, SAF producers, airlines, industry associations, environmental organizations and other groups.

According to the report, approximately 1.9 million gallons of SAF was produced in 2016, with total jet fuel consumed by major U.S. airlines reaching 17.138 billion gallons that year. By 2022, SAF production had increased to 15.8 million gallons, with total jet fuel consumption by major U.S. airlines estimated at 17.51 billion gallons.

In the report, the GAO recommends that the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the USDA develop and incorporate performance measures into the Grand Challenge roadmap. Specifically, the GAO recommends that each agency coordinate with the other two agencies to develop and incorporate into the Grand Challenge Roadmap performance measures that enable the agencies to evaluate their actions and the effect of policy of SAF production and communicate the extent to which SAF is poised to contribute to larger aviation greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals.

A full copy of the report is available on the GAO website