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Officials say Illinois poised to play integral part in sustainable jet fuel industry

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(The Center Square) – In an industry that has yet to develop, Illinois transportation, manufacturing and agricultural sectors are exploring opportunities with sustainable jet fuel.

The inaugural Sustainable Aviation Fuel Conference brought together several stakeholders this week in Lisle, including the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

“This inaugural event is bringing together key stakeholders in the industry to explore the unique opportunities this new initiative offers Illinois and the Midwest,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “Sustainable aviation fuel could grow into the largest new market for the U.S. and Illinois manufacturers have the opportunity to be at the forefront, creating jobs and taking the lead in efforts to reduce global carbon emissions.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois farmers could play an integral part in the sustainable aviation fuel industry.

“Everything you need is here,” said Pritzker. “We are the nation’s number one producer of soybeans, number two producer of corn, and we are responsible for 90% of the U.S. oil seed production.”

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) can be made from plant or animal materials including agricultural waste and can reduce carbon emissions compared to traditional jet fuel, but is up to five times more expensive than its counterpart.

“There’s one big negative and that’s the cost,” Exxon Mobil Vice President Jack Williams said at a recent conference near Chicago. “As we think about how we want to grow SAF, we have got to focus on how do we minimize the costs.”

In 2023, Illinois passed an incentive to support SAF, creating a $1.50 per gallon purchase tax credit to support the supply and use of SAF within the state. Illinois will give airlines operating in the state the ability to claim credit for fuel purchased if the fuel achieves a reduction of at least 50% lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions when compared to petroleum jet fuel.

The Illinois agriculture industry stands to benefit with an emerging sustainable aviation fuel sector.

Increasing investment in sustainable aviation fuel will drive up the demand for corn-based ethanol, presenting a unique opportunity for farmers across the state to help reduce gas house emissions in the aviation industry,” said Chris Gould, director of the IL Corn Growers Association.