American Airlines Partners With Gates’ Group

American Airlines has been taking delivery of SAF for more than a year and has committed to using 9 million gallons through 2023. American Airlines

American Airlines has partnered with Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Catalyst in an effort to develop clean technologies designed to reduce greenhouse gasses and achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2050.

The Fort Worth-based airline is one of the first to partner with Breakthrough Energy, investing $100 million to accelerate the development of emissions-reduction solutions like sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

“We see immense promise in the mission of Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, and our investment is a vote of confidence in the difference-making potential of this unique and collaborative approach,” said Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO of American, in a statement.

“We have an ambitious vision of a low-carbon future for our airline and a plan to match, but we know our own efforts can only get us so far. By working in partnership with Catalyst, we’re helping accelerate and scale our industry’s nascent solutions, like sustainable aviation fuel, along with other technologies that will be necessary to reduce emissions from aviation and across the economy.”

What Is Breakthrough Energy Catalyst?

Founded by Gates in 2015, Breakthrough Energy and its partners are working together to finance, produce and buy the new solutions that will underpin a zero-carbon economy but are currently more expensive than their existing fossil-fuel emitting counterparts. The difference between these costs is what is now referred to as the “Green Premium.”

Bill Gates Courtesy Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Closing this gap may mean the development of low-carbon liquid fuels such as advanced biofuels and electrofuels created with clean-power generation.

“Avoiding a climate disaster will require a new industrial revolution. We need to make the technologies and products that don’t cause emissions as cheap as those that do, so the whole world can afford to put them to use,” Gates said.

“Catalyst will focus on supporting technologies that are vital to the world reaching net-zero emissions but are currently too expensive to be adopted at scale. By coordinating investments and directing them toward these critical technologies, we can reduce their Green Premiums and help them get to market faster, so we can all reach our climate goals.

“American Airlines has demonstrated both ambition and action when it comes to combating climate change, and we applaud the leadership role they’re taking in joining Catalyst as an anchor partner.”

Catalyst will start by funding projects across four technologies: sustainable aviation fuel, green hydrogen, direct air capture, and long-duration energy storage.

American Airlines plans to reduce its emissions in-large by using low-carbon fuel―namely SAF―in increasing volumes over time. The airline has been taking delivery of SAF from Neste for more than a year and has committed to using 9 million gallons in total through 2023. Additionally, American has agreed to terms to purchase up to 10 million gallons of carbon neutral SAF produced by Prometheus Fuels.

American’s path to net zero also includes maximizing the efficiency of its aircraft and its operations. The airline has invested $24 billion in modernizing its fleet with 600 new and more fuel-efficient aircraft while retiring a similar number of less-efficient planes.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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