Few human endeavors consume more energy than air travel. So how does an airline pursue a clean energy portfolio?
JetBlue may just have the answers that will serve as a model for other domestic carriers. The airline has committed to meeting the International Air Transport Association (IATA) targets for GHG emission reduction. What’s perhaps most refreshing about Jet Blue’s approach is its energy diversity—it is the corporate embodiment of “all of the above.”
In 2016, it made a pledge to buy 330 million gallons of fuel made of 30 percent renewable and 70 percent traditional fuels over ten years. This purchase would account for around 20 percent of its annual fuel use at New York’s JFK Airport, which is its home base.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for JetBlue at JFK. The airline’s incredible new Terminal 5 at that airport received a $4 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will be used for the installation of 38 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, enabling the electrification of 116 baggage tug and belt loader vehicles in the terminal. Some of these ideas will be implemented in their West Coast airports in 2018.
Elsewhere, the company is actively working on developing innovative aircraft and other technologies and pursuing more efficient flying techniques.
For example, along with Boeing, JetBlue is backing Zunum Aero, a startup looking to build small-to-mid-sized hybrid jets with rechargeable batteries and an estimated range of 700 to 1,000 miles by 2030. The electric airplane would have a huge impact on emissions and also have an operating cost of just $250 per hour, making it 300 percent to 500 percent cheaper than some other aircraft.
In spite of all these efforts, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are an unavoidable reality in the airline industry; so JetBlue supplements their energy efficiency goals with a remarkable commitment to purchasing carbon offsets—more than any other U.S. airline, in fact. According to the airline, they have purchased offsets totaling more than 2 billion pounds of CO2e emissions independent of customer offsets.
Once again, it’s important for conservatives to realize that these strategies are about saving money and creating jobs.
“It’s thinking long term about our biggest cost, but its primary motivation is to reduce our greenhouse gases,” Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s head of sustainability, told the New York Times in 2016. “What we really want to do is jump-start the industry and quite frankly enable all airlines, very much ourselves included, to diversify our fuel supply.”
Indeed, other airlines are keeping up with JetBlue, such as rivals Delta and United Airlines. Together, these airlines and others are revolutionizing the industry. We thank these airlines for their devotion to sustainability and a secure energy future.