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Sen. Sherrod Brown wants Ohio to help make the production of sustainable jet fuel skyrocket

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Andrew Harnik
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2019 file photo, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks before a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington. Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has gotten criticism from within his own party for his aggressive anti-coronavirus measures, but the state's Democratic senator had praise for him Friday, Mary 7, 2021. “I think the governor has had a steady hand in this,” Brown said while visiting the Cincinnati Health Department to promote getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The manufacturing and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) are taking off slowly. Will the pace be enough to help clean up the air?

One recent success is a four hour Rolls-Royce flight using 100% biofuel, a combination of cooking oil and animal fat used in restaurants. Most other green flights mix a smaller percentage of SAF with regular jet fuel.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown wants to increase the biofuel output, which was 2 million gallons in 2018 to 3 billion in 2030. He thinks the Sustainable Skies Act he’s sponsoring will help. It’s part of President Biden’s "Build Back Better" bill and offers tax credits for each gallon of SAF used in place of traditional airplane fuel.

Wednesday, Brown was joined on a news conference call by GE Aviation’s chief engineer in support of the legislation. Chris Lorence is all for the tax credits, but says there are some obstacles. “We believe at GE Aviation we can overcome any technology obstacles for the transition to SAF and we believe this is really more about markets, availability and pricing," he says.

GE and its longtime partner SAFRAN pledged in June to manufacture an engine that would lower emissions by 20%.

Brown says U.S. airlines have committed to go net zero by 2050. “To meet that goal they need the ultra-efficient engines made in Evendale by GE," he says. "They also need cleaner fuel and I want to see that made in Ohio.”

According to GreenBiz, major airlines are already signing deals with renewable fuel companies to use a greener product.

There is still research to be done. The University of Dayton became the first to prescreen small amounts of alternative jet fuel in 2019. That’s important because researchers can give the green light to tweak a composition or product to make it safer.

Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab are also testing biofuels and have done so since the early 2000s. In 2013 WVXU visited their “fuel farm” with samples from all over the world.

Some say the transition to cleaner fuel can’t come soon enough. A new study by the University of North Carolina finds people who live near airports continue to die as they breathe in the unhealthy air. Researchers say Ohio is one of the six states most affected.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.