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The Future of Sustainable Air Travel

Jill Blickstein, Vice President of Sustainability at American Airlines, outlines advancements in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other efforts the airline is undertaking to reduce its carbon footprint.

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Jill Blickstein

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If you’ve flown on American Airlines recently, there’s a chance your plane was fueled by a small amount of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Jill Blickstein, Vice President of Sustainability at American Airlines, joins the show to talk about the latest advancements in SAF, how the carrier leverages renewables to power its operations and fleet upgrades the airline has made to enhance its sustainability. We also chat about an AI-enabled system called ‘Smart Gating’ that conserves fuel and saves time for travelers.  American Airlines is undertaking numerous initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint. As Jill explains, many of those efforts come in places passengers might not notice, but certainly lead to more sustainable air travel.


Update on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – (4:10)
American Airlines’ goals for SAF usage – (7:56)
Using SAF to attract business travelers – (10:36)
Creating a SAF certificate for all travelers – (14:22)
The potential for zero-emission hydrogen-electric aircraft – (14:47)
Partnering with the Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Catalyst – (17:24)
Other sustainability initiatives at American Airlines – (19:10)
‘Smart Gating’ – (23:47)
Powering operations with renewable energy – (26:20)
Validation from the Science-Based Targets initiative – (27:02)

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(Note: This transcript was created using aritifical intelligence. It has not been edited verbatim.)

Sean McMahon  00:00

Hey what’s up everyone and welcome to another episode of the Renewable Energy SmartPpod. I’m Sean McMahon, and I’m back from an epic Spring Break road trip. I packed up my family Griswold style, and made the trek back and forth from Portland, Oregon to Santa Barbara, California. It was my first time exploring the central coast of Cali, so that was definitely a highlight for me. We saw some great sights, a lot of green down there because of all the rain, and even got a chance to catch a glimpse of more than a few renewable energy projects along the way.

While my family decided to drive for this particular vacation, if we had chosen to fly, chances are the plane carrying us might have been fueled with just a wee bit of sustainable aviation fuel. That’s just one thing I learned from today’s guest, Jill Blickstein. Jill is the vice president of sustainability at American Airlines. So she is joining the show to talk about some of the latest advancements in sustainable aviation fuel, hydrogen electric zero emission aviation, and numerous other initiatives that American is undertaking to reduce its carbon footprint. I gotta tell you, Jill’s insights are awesome. She opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes I get so focused on renewables, that I forget that there are many organizations working to reduce their carbon emissions, but for whom issues like where they get the energy to keep their lights on and power, their operations. Those are just a teensy tiny piece of their overall carbon footprint puzzle. I learned a lot from Jill, and I think you will too.

Looking ahead to the schedule for this show. Next week, I’ll be joined by Kacie Peters. Kacie is the Senior Director of Communications at Pivot Energy and she’s going to walk me through the basics of community solar. You might recall that when we had Matt Ferrell on the show a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned how much he likes community solar. In fact, there are lots of people who believe that community solar, ‘democratizes’ solar, and Kacie is going to come on the show to explain why it’s growing in popularity.

I’ll also be talking with Jasmine Robinson from IHI Terrasun Solutions, which is a solar plus storage systems integration and lifecycle services provider. As the renewable energy industry builds out the workforce needed to tackle the energy transition, diversity is going to be extremely important. Jasmine is going to share some of her experiences in the industry and offer insights about what the industry can do to recruit, develop and retain more women.

So yes, lots of great stuff coming up soon. But before we get things rolling with Jill Blickstein, I want to point out that you’re going to hear a second voice helping me conduct this interview. That voice belongs to my esteemed colleague, Angie Giroux. Angie is Smartbrief’s content expert covering the aviation industry, so I invited her to join me and Jill for our conversation. I hope you enjoy it.

Hello, everyone and thank you for joining us today. My colleague Angie Giroux and I are pleased to be joined by Jill Blickstein from American Airlines. Jill, how are you doing today?

Jill Blickstein  03:08

Great. How are you doing today?

Sean McMahon  03:09

Great, great. We’re here to talk about everything that American Airlines is doing in the world of sustainability. So let’s start right from the top. When people think of American Airlines, they think of these big beautiful jets zooming around the sky. And so you know, when you take a fleet wide view on everything your organization is doing, what are some of the steps that American Airlines has taken to become more sustainable.

Jill Blickstein  03:27

So sustainability is a pretty big challenge for aviation. And that means all airlines, particularly big airlines, and American is one of the largest airlines in 2019. Before COVID, we used about four and a half billion gallons of fuel, and we emitted about 40 million tons of co2. And so while we’re flying some of the more efficient airplanes like the Boeing max and the Airbus 321, Neo, we’ve been through a big fleet renewal project over the last couple of years. You know, we still burn fossil based jet fuel. And so there’s a huge effort going on in our industry and working with fuel producers and governments and others to try to find a replacement or renewable version of that fuel. And so that’s something I’m hoping we’re going to talk more about today.

Sean McMahon  04:10

Yeah, let’s get right into that. I think you’re alluding to sustainable aviation fuel commonly referred to as SAF. So, for listeners who might not be familiar with Saf, you know, what is how are these fuels created? And just walk us through the basics.

Jill Blickstein  04:23

Absolutely. So the sap that we’re using today, we’re burning a tiny, tiny bit, I call it about a teaspoon. We’re burning a tiny bit of sap today. The stuff that we’re buying is made by a company called nasty based in Finland. And the idea is that you can take waste fats and oils and refine them into a fuel. And when you combine that fuel that renewable fuel with fossil jet fuel at no more than 50% SAF to petroleum jet fuel, and commonly it’s blended more like 35 or 30%. The resulting fuel is equivalent to Jet A. And I know a lot of times And when I say that people kind of Blink and look at me, like, how could that be real, but there’s an international standard setting body that actually approves jet fuel, and they approve the technical specifications of jet fuel. And so they’ve approved with this this fuel made from waste oils and fats is called Hiva fuel. It stands for hydro process esters and fatty acids. That sounds like a whole lot going on there. Okay, that sounds like it sounds a lot like a little too close to food, right. So the nasty field that we’re buying today is actually made from beef tallow, which is B fat. You know, we blend it and we take it in by ship to the Port of San Francisco. And it goes into the pipeline there and it gets delivered to the airport. So that’s the kind of fuel is being made today. And again, it has that blend limit. What’s what’s amazing about that fuel, is that it is a drop in fuel. And by that I mean it is dropped into the common tanks and airports, a lot of people don’t know, like all the airlines share at big airports, we all share these common tanks, so our fuel goes in. And then obviously, it’s mixed with all the other fuel and then it’s it’s used by every airline that right we get credit for the emissions reduction, because we’re using it. But think about that, like it’s made from beef towel, it goes into the common tanks, and then every airline can fly on it, every aircraft today can fly on it right, we’re not making changes to the fueling system, we’re not making changes to the aircraft for it. And if you’ve flown out of San Francisco or LA in the last five years, you’ve probably flown on a little bit of SAF.

Sean McMahon  06:25

And I understand it’s one of the most important things in terms of it being able to be used with any existing infrastructure and existing planes, things like that. Because otherwise you run into supply issues and which airports are going to have this special kind of fuel and which ones aren’t. So having it be more of a blend, I guess we’ll call it is is crucial, right?

Jill Blickstein  06:41

It’s crucial, because we’ve already put billions of dollars in investments into the fueling system into the pipelines into the tanks, right. And we can’t recreate that for a new kind of fuel. So sometimes people will say, Well, you know, I want to, I want to buy SAP and I want it I want the SAF to go on my plane, I want the SAF to go into like my route. But that’s not how it works, right, it’s going into come and tanks a little bit is going on to every plane. And that’s why we use what’s called a bucket claim system. So you know, American bought the fuel or whatever airline bought the fuel, it went into the common tech. So we we get to claim the the environmental benefit of that fuel, but it is going into every we typically don’t fuel planes individually. Usually they’re their fuel from a common system. And the bottom line on SAF is that on a lifecycle basis, SAP has 75% lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum jet fuel, and 75%. In an industry where we can on a tip on a good year, reduce our emissions by one or half to 2% 75% is a very big number. And I would say that as we get better at making SAP and as we use newer, more efficient pathways, that number is going to go up. In fact, we expect that eventually we have SAF that is reducing our emissions by 90 to 95%.

Angie Giroux  07:56

You’ve added a lot of clarity there. Thanks for explaining that. smartbrief has included stories in our aviation newsletters about how American Airlines is looking to have 10% of fuel BSA f by 2030. Can you update us on American’s progress on reaching that goal?

Jill Blickstein  08:15

Absolutely. So roughly speaking, if we’re burning about 5 billion gallons of jet fuel and 2030, our goal is about 500 million gallons of of SAF, by then. And let me just put that in context a little bit for you. So last year, we probably burned more SAF than any other airline. I don’t have definitive figures on this yet. But it’s about 2 million gallons, you know, in a year where we probably used three and a half to 4 billion gallons of jet fuel. So it really is a tiny amount. And there’s very little SAF available in the marketplace today. Now that’s going to change, right, we’re learning about new production facilities coming online, we’re helping to get some of those facilities built as lots of airlines are looking to do this. And the new provisions of the inflation Reduction Act, there is a special blenders tax credit for the very first time. So that’s drawing new production and interest in investment into the United States and SAF. We have two contracts one with a company called a meet us and another with a new company, a company called GMO, who make all kinds of renewable chemicals and fuels and are starting to get into the SAP Business. So we have definitive agreements to purchase about 220 million gallons of sap in 2030. And so we’re about a little more than 20% of the way towards our goal in 2030. What’s interesting about that is when we go to sign contract, there’s two things I want to mention when when we go to sign contracts for SAF. One of the things that’s really different is we’re signing contracts with companies who haven’t built their plants yet. And just think about how different that is from how we normally fuel right we’re normally buying fuel from the oil majors fuel. Jet fuel is a super commodity incredibly liquid. We trade with airlines, we trade with airports like it’s it’s a very well Oil machine, right? No pun intended. Whereas now we’re buying stuff from people who haven’t made jet fuel yet. So it’s just a very uncertain kind of endeavor. And of course, all the stuff in the world, most of the stuff in the world is being delivered into California, because California has the financial incentives. So it’s cheaper to deliver stuff into California. Well, at some point, we’re all going to run out of California capacity. That will be I think that will be a high quality problem. I’m excited for that day.

Sean McMahon  10:22

Okay, now, you mentioned California a couple times now, and you know, flights out of LA or San Francisco, or you’re probably using SAF fuel for that, or sorry, I guess SAF fuel is redundant, isn’t it? Sorry. Anyway, so I want to ask you a question. I do a lot of stories on the finance side, and a lot of companies are trying to, you know, the SEC is going to be coming out with some disclosure rules, right? Where companies need to track their mission, scope one, scope two, scope three. And I know you already mentioned that, like some people, you put a little bit in every plane, so you can’t really ask for a route that has the most SAF. But do you see a future where that might be the case, particularly for routes that are maybe more reliant on business travelers? Or if I’m Google, and I’m flying a bunch of people up and down from LA to San Francisco and back, you know, or wherever, maybe on the East Coast, it’s going to be New York to DC or New York to Philly or somewhere like that? Do you see a future where that segment of passengers will want to make sure that their executives are there people are flying on planes, where they can then track Hey, we’re we’re using an airline American is offering more SAF than any other competitors. So we’re going on American because American allows us to check that box or report that part for the SEC, is that something that’s just too pie in the sky might just dreaming? Or is that something you think might become a reality.

Jill Blickstein  11:34

I think that’s gonna become a reality. So I share that dream with you. It will not be that SAF is on my plane. But it will be the case that you if you’re a big company, or that wants to reduce your emissions from your employees traveling, you will be able to come to me and buy the emissions reduction value of SAF. And I say it that way. Because if you’re a company Company X, and you want to be able to reduce your emissions, you don’t want to buy fuel from me, right? You want to get the credit from having flown on SAF. And when I say flown, I mean that as an image not as an as a reality. Right? So if American has bought 2 million gallons of SAF, let’s say or is using 2 million gallons of sap, you can then buy the image emission reduction value of that. And that’s because of how the scopes work. Right. So let’s just take one minute to talk about scope one and scope three, right? Scope, one are the direct emissions. When I American Airlines use Saf, I take the scope one emissions reduction, because it’s made for renewable source. But I have also incurred a scope three emission for the business travelers who travel with us. So American burning jet fuel is not your direct emission, it’s your indirect emission, it’s your upstream or downstream. I get confused which one it is. So I can still take the scope one emission reduction for SAF and you can take the scope three at the same time. That’s double counting. But that double counting is built into carbon accounting, carbon accounting was meant to have this because the people who created it wanted me the airline to have an incentive to reduce my emissions. And they wanted you my customer to talk to me about reducing my emissions. Does that make sense?

Sean McMahon  13:14

Yeah, absolutely. That’s the symbiotic relationship. I hate using that word. Because I seem I feel so cheesy, but it’s a symbiotic relationship that the policymakers are trying to generate, right?

Jill Blickstein  13:23

Yes, they want you to pressure your supply chain. And they want me to pressure my supply chain, too. So I’m now talking to my jet fuel producers about how they can reduce their emissions in the production of jet fuel. So we’re all supposed to be pressuring all of our supply chains. And in that way, we really will get more serious emissions reductions.

Sean McMahon  13:41

So that takes you back to what you’re saying earlier about house, you’re exploring relationships with manufacturers, you haven’t built the plant yet. So now you can have some insight or input on how they create that plant and build it and operate it. Right?

Jill Blickstein  13:52

Yes, and I’m also having conversations with my customers, you know, we’ve sold, we’ve done exactly what you’ve been talking about, we have actually sold the emission reduction value of sustainable aviation fuel to a set of corporate customers who themselves have, for example, science based targets, they really need to reduce their scope three, and a company like Deloitte, for example. They don’t have a lot of direct emissions, they have a lot of scope three, because they travel a lot. And so we actually approached them and said, we want to test out this new, this new way of transacting with SAF right? Because eventually we want to do is create a sap certificate. That’s the end goal, so that you as even if you’re a leisure traveler, you’re going on vacation with your family, but you want to offset your emissions. Maybe you could buy a carbon offset or maybe you want to buy you want something that’s actually in the airline business, you actually want to buy the emission reduction value of SAF you one day you will be able to go buy a SAF certificate.

Sean McMahon  14:44

Wow, that’s incredible. Even just to take the family on vacation. Yes,

Angie Giroux  14:48

It’s good stuff. Seems like there’s a lot of great opportunities going on for SAF. We’ve been hearing about ZeroAvia and other ways American Airlines is investing across the industry to produce this carbon impact. Can you tell us a little bit more about those efforts?

Jill Blickstein  15:03

Absolutely. So we have a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050. And we do have a science based target approved for 2035, as well. So we have to reduce our emissions very significantly, at least by 2035. And obviously, thereafter, if we’re going to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, we have a plan that we’ve laid out for how we’re going to do that, which relies a lot on SAF and on new modes of propulsion, and on having the newest aircraft engines. So new propulsion, we’ve invested in two companies, one is their Avia, and another is universal hydrogen, both of whom are working on hydrogen propulsion for aircraft. Now, hydrogen propulsion is not new, the military flew on hydrogen in the 1950s, I think, but the modern version of it using fuel cells is is really in its infancy. And I will say, you know, I’ve been doing this role for about three years. And in that three years, I’ve seen a huge amount of acceleration, right, we got this app tax credit, we’re seeing a lot more SAF production, we’re seeing hydrogen has gone from something that people said was impossible. Now both those companies have done have performed test flights using hydrogen fuel cell actually burning hydrogen, and to make electricity to power the rotors. So zero Avia wants to create first very small regional planes. And you know, obviously start small so that we can go to something bigger, and universal hydrogen did a test flight, they are going to do a retrofit for small regional planes at the beginning, although these are more like I think, 40 to 50 seater. So that was a decent sized plane. And then what they what they want to focus on is the hydrogen, the logistics of hydrogen fuel delivery to airports. So this was something we talked about at the beginning. You know, SAP is great, because you don’t have to create a whole new logistics system. The idea, we also probably can’t create a whole new hydrogen logistics, infrastructure. But what they’re what universal hydrogen is doing is creating capsules that can contain the hydrogen that can be moved by truck easily from airport to airport or among airports. And that can be loaded pretty easily onto the plane. So you’re not talking about creating a whole new fueling system. And so American Airlines is investing in both sides, I call it of the hydrogen, what will become the new hydrogen ecosystem, right? It’s having a new hydrogen propelled plane. And it’s having a way to deliver the fuel that is low emission and efficient.

Sean McMahon  17:24

Okay. And speaking of other initiatives, or other you know, efforts that American’s making, I saw you got y’all are interacting with, you know, the Bill Gates lead in Breakthrough Energy ventures? What’s that relationship look like? And how did it get started.

Jill Blickstein  17:35

So we are a anchor partner of Breakthrough Energy Catalyst. So Breakthrough Energy has a bunch of different companies in it. One of them is Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is obviously doing venture investing catalysts. The goal of catalyst is to provide low cost capital, to companies and projects that are positioned to scale. So it’s not super early investing, it’s investing in technologies that work in the lab. And that and where these companies need extra capital, we need capital to build to actually get to scale. So it’s very kind of purposeful, we’ve been looking around for a strategic partner on sustainability. Because, well, obviously, airlines don’t make fuel, right? We don’t make airplanes, we go to OEMs. And we ask them to make us airplanes and engines and all these other things, right? We don’t make we don’t make all the stuff we eat fly the airplane. So we’re not, I wouldn’t call us like the experts in making any of those things. And so we were looking for a partner who shared our goals, but could help us make the smart choices about where to invest. So we have $100 million commitment to Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, Catalyst has already made an investment in Lonzo jet, which is a SAF producer in the United States, it’s going to make alcohol to jet SAF, meaning they’re going to make SAP using ethanol. And they needed the catalyst financing to build their test plant. So it’s only the test plants gonna make about 10 million gallons a year, I think. But once they get the technology right in the test plant, then they can go build bigger plants. And that is sort of a great test case for how we want catalysts to work.

Sean McMahon  19:02

Well, that sounds great. I’d love to get an update from you down the road about other kinds of smaller ventures that are getting bigger through the catalysts. So we’ll try to follow up with you on that.

Angie Giroux  19:10

Jill, can you talk a little bit about American’s plan to transition aircraft from steel to carbon fiber brakes?

Jill Blickstein  19:17

Yeah, so this is interesting, you know, the most brakes on planes are made from steel, which is pretty heavy. And the military actually pioneered the use of carbon brakes, because they were lighter, they could absorb more energy, and they lasted longer. They were also more expensive. Now, I think because of innovations in technology, that price has come down somewhat, but also because they’re lighter, and they last longer, right. There’s a return on investment there. So we have recently begun a plan to purchase carbon brakes from Safran for our 737 fleet. And we’re going to save lots of fuel and lots of emissions. And that’s one of the things we can do in our operation, right. And we’re looking at things like that we probably have a list of 20 or 30 Different things that we’re we’re always in in the mode of pricing out, when can we get a return on the investment in these things? How will they help our operation? Where can we save on maintenance? You know, one thing that we did in last couple of years was we invested in a new application, you know, the pilots. Now, instead of having to have these big books have directions and instructions there, they now get lots of the information they need to operate the flight on their iPad, right? That’s the new flight bag is the iPad. And through the Wi Fi on the plane, we’re delivering real time weather information to pilots. So they’re constantly are able to check on an ongoing basis, has the weather changed? Are we seeing a storm are we seeing turbulence and turbulence obviously, is a critical safety issue, but also very important to fuel burn. And so pilots now see a very clear screen that shows them where turbulence is and shows them how to change their route and usually a slight change in altitude to avoid an area of turbulence. And we have saved millions and millions of gallons of jet fuel by giving pilots this new tool in the cockpit.

Sean McMahon  21:01

Again, it sounds like something that passengers might not really realize is happening in the cockpit, but it is enhancing their travel experience.

Jill Blickstein  21:08

Exactly, exactly. I mean, just like the lighter paint, you know, we’re putting lighter pain that lasts longer on our aircraft, passengers aren’t going to really see that or recognize the value of that. But it also saves fuel. I mean, that’s, you know, the technologies that we started talking started out, talking about the SAF and the and the new propulsion, those are going to come really at scale, it’s going to take probably a decade for those to really come and sail. So what we’re doing, we’re doing everything we can in our operation today to save fuel. In the end, it’s going to save us, you know, one to 2% I’d say of jet fuel of our of our jet fuel on our emissions, whereas SAF and new propulsion, the new propulsion, if we can grow the industry for green hydrogen, that could be zero emission flying.

Sean McMahon  21:51

Yeah. And he said the prospect or the potential of zero emission flight is even, you know, even more breathtaking, I guess you’d say, it just appeared to be a lot of the things we’re talking about right now are things that passengers might not notice. Right. You mentioned, like, you know, you might not even know if your plane is, you know, powered by SAF or percentage of SAF, and some of these other things that are going on behind the scenes. But what are some of the things just from a sustainability perspective, or, you know, conserving fuel or just reducing carbon emissions? What are some of the things that American’s working on that passengers might see or might benefit from directly, and it’s really kind of putting it in front of them rather than behind the scenes,

Jill Blickstein  22:25

you’re absolutely right that customers don’t see the most important things that we’re doing to reduce our impact on the planet. And so everything from the fuel, I mean, obviously, they’ll see it when they’re boarding a whole new kind of aircraft, for example. But there’s a lot of other things we do in our operations that have a big impact. And I’d love to talk about those in a bit as well. What they do see are the plastic cups and the plastic cutlery and the plastic wrap on their food and all of that, and we are working to reduce that. I say that with some hesitancy because I think during we had a lot of plans before COVID. And COVID just took everyone you know, we weren’t allowed to hand the can of coke to the passenger anymore, right in COVID. So it really put a stop to a lot of the things we were trying to do. Lots of those things have been reintroduced. We are recycling more, we’ve picked up the recycling, we’ve replaced plastic cutlery with bamboo cutlery and lots of lights. Before COVID We got rid of the plastic stirring sticks and the straws. Of course, we’re an airline. So we couldn’t get rid of all the straws, I think we still have one or two straws for people who need them. But we were able to get rid of most of the straws. And we’re very big. So when we go to replace something, we have to have a supply chain that can really deliver that product to us. And so yes, we’re making we’re making progress and our customers should should be seeing on their flights, lots of new products that might look a little bit different than the products that we’re used to seeing.

Sean McMahon  23:47

So I was on your website doing a little bit of research ahead of this. And it did see something that caught my eye and it’s called Smart gating. And I think every traveler can relate to the feeling of you know, you’ve landed at your destination, you’re taxiing over to the concourse. But then the pilot comes on and says, Oh, well, we got to sit on the tarmac because we don’t have any gates to park at right now. So it sounds like American’s working on smart gating is something that American’s, we’re gonna have to try to fix that. Can you describe what smart gating is for our listeners?

Jill Blickstein  24:17

Yes, absolutely. So assigning planes to gates was a manual process. And it took four hours. This is my favorite part, it took four hours every night between 10pm and 2am that the dispatch team had to sit down and like map out where every plane was going to gate. And then as soon as something went wrong, I had to fix it completely fixed the plan, right because it all every flight cascades to the next slide. What we did was we used we built internally a machine learning application that sits on top of of the existing application and takes that four hours down to basically like two and a half minutes that it takes to actually assign. And of course, you know the teams went out to every airport to learn all the intricacies of what you want to do is you know land the plane probably at the gate that is well positioned for the next flight right so that’s also saving you saving your time and money. In the end what it’s done, we’ve deployed it at DFW and at Dallas Fort Worth and at the Charlotte airport, which are two of our biggest hubs in the United States. And it’s already saved us a million gallons of fuel by reducing taxi time by about two minutes. So those two minutes that you’re sitting there wondering, if you’re like driving into the next state, that ride is going to feel shorter, and it’s gonna burn less fuel, and it’s gonna save a lot of emissions.

Sean McMahon  25:23

You said it’s a machine learning tool, and that we live in a world where it seems like AI is a bad word these days. But are you suggesting, Jill that there’s AI being put to good use? Is that what you’re trying to tell us?

Jill Blickstein  25:31

That’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you. There are lots of very complex operations at an airport. If you ever get a chance to get a view of what airport operations look like our COO showed us one of those fast action films where they speed up all the action, you can see what it really takes to get an airplane off the ground. It’s multiple teams working on multiple in sequence, right? And so much has to happen. And so much has to happen in the right sequence and fast for us to turn an aircraft and so anything we can do like like smart gating, where we’re using these new tools, you know, the all those people who were spending four hours trying to assign planes to gates, think what they can do now with that time, and that freed up brainpower so it’s pretty exciting.

Angie Giroux  26:14

I think it’s fascinating technology I’m picking it really does, you know, enable a smoother travel experience for passengers. Okay, I was looking at

Sean McMahon  26:21

your website, when in terms of you know, operations that are powered by renewables, there’s something in there about how your your corporate headquarters I think it DFW is 100% renewable.

Jill Blickstein  26:29

Yes, we are purchasing renewable energy certificates to offset all of our electricity use in our North Texas facility. So that includes our headquarters and our integrated operating center, and our training facilities, and obviously the airport as well. And we’re talking to all of our airports about how we can work together to reduce fuel use to reduce electricity use electricity, the emissions from purchase electricity are less than 1% of our total emissions. So because we burn so much jet fuel jet fuel is really the focus of our work, but we haven’t lost sight of the need to also reduce our electricity use.

Sean McMahon  27:02

Now, I want to circle back to something you mentioned earlier about how American you know has its carbon emissions targets validated by the science based targets initiative. Can you explain to our listeners what that is and how that process took place?

Jill Blickstein  27:13

So the science based targets Initiative is a set of environmental nonprofits, I think its World Wildlife Foundation CDP World Resources Institute, they saw that lots of companies were trying to set netzero goals and emissions reduction goals. And they also saw that investors and customers were struggling to understand how one company’s goals compared to another company’s goals. And if those goals had any science behind them, we now we have the Paris Agreement. Now we have the IPCC reports telling us what we really need to do to reduce emissions to meet the goals of the Paris agreement to essentially arrest global warming. So what they did was they came up with this rubric they call science based targets. So for example, they will tell companies, they have they published a pathway. So companies needed to be able to route that reduce their emissions on a certain path, to be able to get to zero by 2050. And they call that so that’s a science based target for for 2050. And they said to companies, okay, if you want to publish a pathway or a target, and you want our blessing, you submit your target to us. And we will review it, and we’ll tell you if it meets our criteria. And what I’ve read is that they thought nobody was going to want to do this. And it turned out that hundreds and hundreds of companies wanted to do this, because companies face the same problem, right? They wanted to set up emissions reduction goal, they want to show that they’re taking climate change seriously. And they needed external validation. And so the whole idea of the science based target initiative, I think, kind of exceeded the expectations of the people who set it up. So they they have been growing the initiative. And for a long time, airlines could not even apply, because all the emissions reductions targets from SBTi. They were all absolute. So they said you have to get your emissions absolutely down by whatever percent by let’s say, 2035. They realized that it wasn’t appropriate for every industry. Because as we grow, our emissions are going to grow. And because we don’t have near term ways to really cut our emissions significantly, right, because we don’t have SAF and we don’t have new propulsion yet.

Sean McMahon  29:20

Just real quick, just explain to listeners. So some industries have ready made solutions that are or at least really close to being ready. Other industries, whether it’s airlines or shipping or whatever, little farther away.

Jill Blickstein  29:31

Yeah, airlines and shipping are called hard to abate. were hard to abate. Not really the moniker you want to have. Whereas think about like road transport is decarbonizing today with electric trucking can decarbonize by using renewable diesel, which is made from the same feedstocks, the same inputs that SAP is made from? I’d like to say I’m a little jealous of road transport, although the bonus is that as road transport decarbonize, is it’s going to free up that ethanol production and maybe we can we’re on a path To be able to reuse that ethanol to make stuff. So that’s pretty exciting. So going back to the ScienceBase target for a minute, so what they what they did was they realized they had to create unique pathways for these hard Drobeta industries. So I think oil and gas has one aviation, we have our own pathway, it’s a reduction in carbon intensity. So think about it as emissions per seat, for example. And we have to reduce our emissions essentially proceed by about 45% by 2035. So it’s far away. It’s a drastic cut. But that’s we expect SAF to be really scaling by 2030. And we expect to have be able to take advantage of cost competitive stuff in the 2030s. And we expect hydrogen propulsion to be well on its way by that as well.

Sean McMahon  30:45

Wow, that would be incredible. That’s for sure. All right. Well, hey, Jill. Listen, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for your time, and we really appreciate it.

Jill Blickstein  30:53

Sean. Angie, thank you so much for inviting me. This was a lot of fun. And I’m happy to come back and report back on our progress.

Sean McMahon  30:58

We look forward to that. Thank you. Thank you. All right, everyone. Well, that’s our show for today. Thank you all for listening. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe or follow this show on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And as always, please be sure to share it with your friends and colleagues. Have a great day.