EIA revises jet fuel consumption outlook down
Jet fuel consumption through 2050 is set to grow at a faster rate than any other transportation fuel, except electricity, yet expectations for air travel demand have fallen year over year. The Energy Information Administration’s most recent Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) expects less passenger travel demand than in its 2019 forecast, indicating a more moderate assessment of global connectivity demand and rising personal incomes than in early 2019.
Air transportation is still almost entirely dependent on conventional fuels, unlike road vehicles using motor gasoline. Movement types are expected to increase across all modes, except domestic marine, but fuel-efficiency advances in other modes will either moderate or reverse fuel use in most sectors. Jet fuel consumption, however, is expected to grow by 31% by 2050 because increased air travel is forecast to outpace increases in aircraft fuel efficiency.
By 2050, air travel is expected to grow by 70% — by far the strongest growth of any mode — from 1.02 trillion revenue passenger miles in 2019 to 1.73 trillion in 2050, down from last year’s projection of 1.75 trillion revenue passenger miles.
However, given the speed of technological change over the past 30 years, there is still significant space for innovation to disrupt this projection. The current AEO figures are based on what it considers a likely “reference case,” and considers other possibilities, including a range of oil prices and economic forecasts.
In a major indicator that the attitude toward sustainable fuel has changed even in the past year, the most recent AEO introduced new cases accounting for potential renewable energy costs, as well as cases assuming implementation of carbon allowance fees. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to expect at least some of these variables will come into play by 2050, as the aviation industry pursues paths toward innovation.
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