Taylor Swift hopes to attend the Super Bowl in Las Vegas but must take a private jet from Japan where she is on tour. Her fans, “Swifties,” quip that the superstar’s flight finally forced a certain news network to actually mention the words: “climate change.” Swift’s previous attendance at the AFC championship game in January resulted in three tons of carbon emissions – and that flight was just from New Jersey to Maryland. Flying over 5,000 miles will require a lot more jet fuel, and result in even more emissions. Joining her plane circling Las Vegas will be an estimated 1000 private jets. Swift is flying to see her boyfriend Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs play versus the San Francisco 49ers in the football contest.
Sports fans with private planes are not the only winged emitters. World Economic Forum attendees jetted into Davos, Switzerland in over 1,000 private jets. That’s the same emissions that would be generated by 350,000 cars driving for seven days. Worldwide, in 2022, private jets emitted carbon dioxide totaling 573,000 metric tons.
Commercial aircraft emit carbon dioxide reaching levels of 1 billion tons every year. That is more that the entire country of Germany. If aviation were a country, it would come just after China, USA, India, Russia, and Japan in emissions levels.
Is there a solution? How about flying on leftover sugar, fat, and corn waste? Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) made from biofuels produced from renewable crops or collected waste offers advantages. SAF produces 85% less emissions over its lifecycle. And, importantly, SAF can use the same delivery infrastructure and personnel systems as traditional kerosene-based jet fuel. In 2021, United Airlines flew from Chicago to Washington, DC, using 100% SAF in one of its jet engines. In 2023, Emirates claimed the honor of being the first aircraft to fly an Airbus A380 using 100% SAFs in one of the plane’s engines. Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 flew from London to New York. Gulfstream led private aviation in a flight from Savannah, George to Farnborough Airport in England using 100% SAF.
Leading innovators producing Sustainable Aviation Fuel include Engine Alliance, Neste, Pratt & Whitney, and Virent. Investors are interested. But it should be noted that growing enough crops for biofuels in the UK would consume one half of all available agricultural land.
In 2028, stars attending Las Vegas festivities might change the game by riding the coming high-speed electric train Brightline West that will run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in two hours with almost zero emissions.
Brooke, K. Lusk. “TRANSPORT: New ‘Wingprint’ for Aviation.” 29 November 2023. Building the World Blog.
Department of Energy (DOE), United States. “Sustainable Aviation Fuel.” https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/sustainable_aviation_fuel.html
Narciso, Gerald. “It’s a big weekend for football. And for fancy jets.” 7 February 2024. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/07/climate/super-bowl-private-jets.html
One Monroe Aerospace. “Why airplanes use kerosene rather than plain gasoline for fuel.” 29 April 2023. https://monroeaerospace.com/blog/why-airplanes-use-kerosene-rather-than-plain-gasoline-for-fuel/