Delay in aviation fuel decision puts ethanol allies on edge

By Marc Heller | 03/06/2024 01:35 PM EST

The Treasury Department has delayed an update to greenhouse gas modeling for biofuels, which will determine the role corn ethanol plays in sustainable aviation fuel.

The sun rises over an airplane

The Biden administration is weighing how it will view crop-based sources of sustainable aviation fuel. Kevin Dietsch/AFP via Getty Images

If ethanol is going to be the airline industry’s fuel of the future, advocates are going to be in suspense a little bit longer.

The Biden administration missed a March 1 deadline to announce how favorably it will view crop-based sources of sustainable aviation fuel, as the Treasury Department works out the details of a related tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. That’s making some people in and around the industry nervous that they’ll be disappointed with the final decision.

“Putting this off isn’t helping the grain farmer,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a leading advocate for biofuels whose state leads the country in ethanol production. As much as half the corn grown in the state goes to ethanol, he told agriculture reporters on a conference call Tuesday.


The administration didn’t elaborate on the reasons for the delay, which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said would be weeks rather than months. Grassley said he has no inside information but suspects environmental interests may be behind it, as they argue that planting more corn for transportation fuel will worsen, not fight, climate change. The tax credit requires a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional petroleum jet fuel.