Why Microsoft Is Buying Sustainable Jet Fuel For Alaska Airlines

Tech giant Microsoft announced a partnership with Alaska Airlines this Thursday to cut its CO2 emissions through sustainable jet fuel. The agreement involves Microsoft purchasing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on routes popular with its employees.

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Microsoft will subsidize sustainable fuels on its most popular business routes with Alaska Airlines. Photo: Getty Images

The groundbreaking partnership is the first of its kind and could herald a new era of corporate environmental responsibility. The sustainable jet fuel is a composite of waste oils and regular jet fuel managed by Dutch company SkyNRG.

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Details of the partnership

As part of the new agreement, Microsoft will buy SAF credits with SkyNRG to use on its most popular business routes with Alaska Airlines – Seattle to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business, stated,

“We are excited to partner with Alaska Airlines to make business air travel a little greener by using sustainable aviation fuel supplied by SkyNRG to reduce the carbon impact of the flights Microsoft employees fly most”

Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, and SkyNRG will also participate in a World Economic Forum project called Clean Skies for Tomorrow. This program aims to educate suppliers and companies on sustainable fuels and increase demand to establish a more sustainable industry. Microsoft will also become a member of the Board Now initiative, which has similar goals.

Microsoft’s sustainability targets

The latest move by Microsoft is part of their ambitious sustainability targets. The company plans to be “carbon negative” by 2030 by removing more carbon than it emits. By 2050, it hopes to completely offset all the carbon it has ever been responsible for in its history. Judson Althoff commented on the challenges of sustainable solutions in aviation, saying,

“It’s easy to do certain things in the equation of pursuing being net zero and net negative in carbon, but travel and certainly air travel is one of the more difficult ones.”

Alaska Airlines already has a strong track record in sustainability. The airline was one of the first to champion sustainable fuels and has successfully cut back its greenhouse emissions by 16% since 2012. In a statement released today, Alaska Airlines also announced,

“A two-year investment with Washington State University to support additional research at the WSU-PNNL Bioproducts Institute to advance the mid- and long-term development of SAF as an economically viable option.”

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Alaska Airlines and Microsoft hope to lead the way in sustainable solutions. Photo: Alaska Airlines

Making a global difference

Commercial air travel currently accounts for 2-3% of carbon emissions worldwide. Presently, only a handful of airlines have committed to using SAF regularly, but the number is growing with over 30 airlines trialing sustainable fuel initiatives.

With a pedigree name like Microsoft onboard, Amsterdam-based company SkyNRG is hoping the new partnership will transform the industry. Managing Director Theye Veen has claimed,

“The emergence of a SAF production system and market is a once-in-a-century opportunity to launch a new energy source for an entire industry, guided by strong sustainability standards from day one.”

Why Microsoft Is Buying Sustainable Jet Fuel For Alaska Airlines
The partnership hopes to spark a revolution in the aviation industry. Photo: Alaska Airlines

Microsoft and Alaska Airlines are yet to provide a figure on how much fuel will be purchased. Alaska Airlines CEO, Brad Tilden, notes the importance of corporate responsibility and co-ordinating efforts towards common goals. He said,

“SAF enables us to fly cleaner and reduce our impact on the environment. However, we cannot do this alone — we must work together with other industries and business leaders like Microsoft and SkyNRG, among others who are thinking big, to achieve our goals and grow the marketplace for SAF.”

Are sustainable fuels a viable option for the future of the industry? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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