• Gennette Cordova

Hawaii looking to offer sustainable fuel supply to airlines

Updated: Jan 2


Hawaii could be among the first states offering a sustainable fuel supply to airlines, according to Joelle Simonpietri, an organizer of the Hawaii Aviation and Climate Action Summit, held this past week on Dec. 3 in Honolulu.


Simonpietri, a former Operational Manager of the military’s Green Initiative for Fuels Transition Pacific, owns Simonpietri Enterprises, a small sustainability consulting firm investigating aviation biofuels in O’ahu. Although there’s currently no specific plan in place, during a recent Hawai’i Public Radio interview, Simonpietri said her research has found that the 700 short tons (about 635 metric tonnes) of construction and demolition debris, created daily on the island, could produce 10 million gallons of jet fuel annually, which is the minimum scale necessary for a fully operational commercial facility. 


Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii’s largest and longest-serving airline serving the four major islands, has adopted seven environmental markers since 2016, outlined by the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE), a group of worldwide aviation leaders dedicated to creating greener flights, according to Forbes.


Michael Wolcott, Director of ASCENT, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Sustainability Center, said, “we have all kinds of products that we’ve used once already and is now a waste product and is now a liability to society in some way shape or form.” 

These waste products include forest residuals. In 2016, Alaska Airlines made history by flying the world’s first commercial flight partially powered by limbs, stumps and branches from Pacific Northwest trees, left over after timber harvests.


Airports around the world are adjusting in response to the aviation industry’s goals to achieve more environmentally friendly flight. Next year, various U.S.-based airlines are implementing a cap on their 2019 carbon emissions levels, including Hawaiian, United, Southwest and Alaska, who were all present at last week’s summit in Honolulu. One of the ways Hawaii can help these airlines meet their sustainability mandates is by producing and providing sustainable fuels.


Reports from the Hawaii Tourism Authority show that in 2018, a record 9.9 million tourists traveled to the state, which has experienced continued growth in tourism over the past decade. Everyone who travels to Hawaii by air must fly at minimum 4,000 miles, roundtrip. Because of this, jet fuel accounts for one-third of all petroleum usage in Hawaii, compared to only 8.37% nationwide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). In fact, because of high demand from military installations and commercial airlines, the state uses a larger share of its total petroleum consumption for jet fuel than any state except for Alaska.


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