American Airlines is partnering with Bill Gates to provide $ 100 million for green technology research


American Airlines will contribute $ 100 million to a new green technology fund led by Bill Gates that aims to stimulate research into technologies that can reduce carbon emissions.

Microsoft, Bank of America, Blackrock and General Motors are among other high profile companies that joined the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst fund on Monday. The group aims to provide low-interest loans and other low-cost investments to get green technology projects off the ground.

American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, has joined the rest of the aviation industry to achieve high carbon reduction targets over the next 30 years, including targets to eliminate their entire carbon footprint by 2050. However, there is no clear way for American or any other airline to get there based on current technology.

“Climate change is an acute and imminent challenge, and it certainly is the case in aviation,” said Jill Blickstein, managing director of American Airlines, who leads the company’s environmental efforts. “Other transport sectors have a way to decarbonize, but aviation doesn’t.”

The Breakthrough Energy Catalyst Fund and American Airlines’ investment are, in some ways, an admission that current technology is not a solution to the upcoming environmental problems that climate scientists have pointed out.

The emerging electric vehicle and truck industries are not viable for the aviation sector. American Airlines has agreed to invest up to $ 1 billion in a UK manufacturer of experimental short-haul aircraft. But airline executives, including American CEO Doug Parker, have admitted that there is no electrical solution to transport hundreds of people hundreds and thousands of kilometers, as is the case with commercial aircraft.

“A new industrial revolution is needed to avoid a climate catastrophe,” Gates said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the partnerships. “Half of the technology needed to achieve zero emissions either doesn’t exist yet or is too expensive for much of the world.”

But unlike American’s investments in electric aircraft, the company is unlikely to pay off directly financially, even if it opens up the market to more alternative fuels in the future.

“I think we recognize and appreciate the fact that this has the potential to affect the entire aviation industry,” said Blickstein.

It’s no small price to pay for American, which is roughly $ 50 billion in debt after borrowing $ 22 billion to keep the company afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the mutual fund’s target areas, American places the greatest emphasis on sustainable aviation fuel, an emerging fuel source that uses recycled waste such as cooking oils to make kerosene. In theory, using sustainable aviation fuel reduces CO2 emissions by around 80%.

American Airlines is committed to purchasing up to 9 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over the next three years, and some of the American planes departing from San Francisco International Airport already run on a mix of regular jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel.

Competing airlines such as Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, United based in Chicago, and Delta Air Lines, based in Atlanta, have all made commitments on sustainable aviation fuel.

However, the entire sustainable aviation fuel industry only produces about 4.5 million gallons per year, compared to the more than 90 billion gallons of aviation fuel consumed by the global aviation industry.

Sustainable aviation fuel is also three to five times more expensive than traditional aviation fuel, so airlines need more production and lower prices.

“We need the SAF market to grow a thousandfold compared to today,” said Blickstein. “There are fuels made from waste oils, but the production capacities we need are not yet available.”

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