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Clean Aviation Fuel Has Wings In South Carolina

“If we develop this industry, good paying jobs will most certainly follow …”

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by J.D. CHAPLIN

As governments and businesses work together to reduce carbon emissions from airplanes, a consensus is forming around the most effective lever: Clean aviation fuels (CAFs), such as biomass-based sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). With the right policies in place, South Carolina has an opportunity to lead in building a strong American SAF market, spurring job and economic growth across the Palmetto State.

Currently, there isn’t enough SAF in the world to power U.S. airlines for a single day – but that’s where the opportunity comes in. SAF can be derived from crops like corn and soybeans, which are two of the largest crops produced by South Carolina farmers. In fact, our state is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a budding SAF market given two of our most significant sectors are agribusiness and aerospace. 

Agribusiness, the largest economic sector in South Carolina, boasts $42 billion in economic impact and provides over 200,000 jobs. There are nearly 25,000 farms in South Carolina producing everything from corn and soybeans to cotton, cattle, peanuts, eggs, and wheat. In 2022, South Carolina’s soybean and corn production alone was valued at over $500 million.

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Meanwhile, aerospace is the state’s fourth-largest export and employs 136,000 South Carolinians — constituting a $28.8 billion economic impact. Workers in our state produce some of the world’s best-known commercial and military aircraft.

Thanks to the strength of our agribusiness and aerospace sectors, South Carolina is best positioned to lead the future of sustainable air travel. If we build an attractive market for SAF here in our state, the windfall for South Carolina’s economy will be substantial. The U.S. market for SAF is expected to reach $4.35 billion by 2032 — a remarkable expansion from its 2023 estimated value of $180.75 million.

The full spectrum of businesses, including family farmers, would benefit. Whether growing the crops used for SAF, or the research and development that goes into building the most efficient aircraft engines in the world; when we work across sectors to support the developing SAF market in South Carolina, good-paying jobs will most certainly follow.

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“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, people and businesses in South Carolina spent $436 million on jet fuel in 2022 – none of which was produced in our state …”

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In addition to the myriad benefits to South Carolina, scaling the production of clean aviation fuels will provide crucial support for American energy security. Wars worldwide have made it clear that the U.S. must be independent of unpredictable and erratic foreign actors, especially regarding our most critical resources. Domestic energy production and secure supply chains for critical fuels must be rapidly developed. American farmers can provide us with the renewable resources we need to diversify our energy mix and secure American energy independence.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, people and businesses in South Carolina spent $436 million on jet fuel in 2022 — none of which was produced in our state. However, South Carolina ranks tenth in the U.S. in biomass generation. Scaling SAF and all CAFs creates an opportunity to keep money spent on fuel right here at home. 

Now, policymakers in Washington, D.C., must clear remaining obstacles to unlock the full potential of clean aviation fuel as an American energy solution. Passing, strengthening, and extending targeted tax incentives would incentivize investment in dozens of new biorefineries and regional feedstock supply infrastructure across the country and right here in South Carolina. 

Moving forward, we can continue buying billions of barrels of imported petroleum jet fuel year after year, missing chances to reinvigorate rural America and break energy dependence. Or we can invest assertively in homegrown SAF and other clean aviation fuel production to achieve true fuel security, boost South Carolina’s farm economy, and lead in the 21st-century energy race.

The choice seems clear.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

JD Chaplin is a row crop farmer from Hartsville, South Carolina, where he was born and raised, and is the chairman of the Darlington County Republican Party.

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1 comment

gimme my gubmt cheese February 24, 2024 at 2:55 pm

do you hear yourself? calling for subsidy but still a republican. no one wants to work anymore, pull yourself up by the boot straps.

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