Image courtesy of Iowa Renewable Fuels Association

Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS) released a study of the economic impact on the Midwest if the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) goal of 35 billion gallons was met by 2050. The Midwest stands to benefit greatly as two of the most likely SAF feedstocks would be soybean oil and corn ethanol.

In order to reach the 35-billion-gallon goal, the study found that 63 new 200-million-gallon-per-year ethanol plants, 30 new ethanol-to-jet SAF production facilities and six new oils/fats SAF production facilities would need to be built.

DIS report author David Miller said, “SAF production provides a substantial opportunity for Midwestern states, Midwestern farmers, and Midwestern renewable fuel producers to prosper in the coming years if the SAF Grand Challenge comes to fruition and the Midwestern states take steps to be active participants in making the roadmap come to life. The pathway that DIS estimates most likely to be realized has [oils/fats]-based SAF and ethanol-to-jet (ETJ) being the two most prominent pathways for SAF production at least for the next 20 years.”

In addition to a huge economic jolt from the construction of the new SAF infrastructure, ongoing operations would:

  • Boost employment by 224,440 jobs
  • Increase labor income by $9.3 billion
  • Add $427 million to farm revenues in ethanol plant basis premiums alone
  • Raise farm income by $11,670 for a typical 1000-acre farm split 50/50 between corn and soybeans.

With corn production grow outpacing demand, without the new SAF market corn farmers would face an extended period of overproduction, resulting in:

  • Reducing corn acreage 68 million acres by 2050
  • Slashing of farm revenues by nearly $10 billion per year
  • Cutting farm income by $60,240 for a typical 1000-acre farm split 50/50 between corn and soybeans.

“[T]his potential cannot be fully realized without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for ethanol,” said Miller. “And, without the potential new use for corn for ETJ-SAF, the U.S. corn supply is and will continue to grow at a pace that outstrips demand. Either stocks will build, and prices will decline, or a significant amount of corn acreage will need to be pulled out of production. Time is of the essence and the clock is ticking.”

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) commissioned DIS to conduct a study of the economic impact on the Midwest if the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge of 35 billion gallons by 2050 was met. The study does not attempt to judge the policies or incentives that would be necessary to achieve the goal, but rather to outline what the Midwest has to gain if the challenge was fulfilled.

For more information, visit iowarfa.org.