Oscar the Grouch has found another trashy cause to get behind. United Airlines is promoting its Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) initiative by enlisting the cantankerous Sesame Street character as its Chief Trash Officer.
The airline just released a new campaign to promote its investment in more sustainable fuel options. And trash-lover Oscar is embracing being the spokes-puppet for it.
“Every airline burns jet fuel to run their business, but no airline will solve climate change on its own,” said United Chief Communications Officer Josh Earnest in a press release. “So United has enlisted Oscar to help us educate the traveling public of all ages about SAF and rally them to the cause of fighting climate change. From banana peels to fryer grease, Oscar is uniquely qualified to help us explain why trash could be the treasure that fuels the jets of the future.”
Here’s one of the videos featuring Oscar settling into his new office, posted to YouTube. In it, Oscar and a United employee talk about what can be used in sustainable aviation fuel, like leftover cooking oil and grease.
Is ‘Green’ Aviation Fuel Realistic?
United has committed to going green and not producing any greenhouse emissions by 2050 without using carbon offsets. Right now only 0.1% of the airline’s overall fuel is SAF, but United flights do use a bit of french fry oil in their tanks of gas right now.
But SAF could be used in existing planes to reduce emissions by up to 85% when fully rolled out, according to reporting from the Washington Post.
Oscar the Grouch’s favorite rotting banana peels along with other biomass and waste can be heated and purified by refineries into something that is almost exactly like petroleum and works the same in a plane’s fuel tank without any adaptations.
The U.S. government’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says that up to a billion tons of “dry biomass” like corn grain, oil seeds, algae, wood mill waste, city solid waste, and lots of fats, oils and greases could be converted into SAF.
And speaking of another United video, Oscar “talks trash” with a United pilot about the types of waste that would work for green fuel, like woody biomass (twigs and leaves) and agricultural slop (stems and husks). Oscar declares the idea “so gross, it’s incredible.”
However, right now there aren’t enough refineries or sources of SAF out there. “Green fuel” also costs a lot more than regular fuel.
The U.S. Energy Department and other federal agencies aim to increase the current SAF production from 15 million gallons to 3 billion gallons of SAF a year in 2030 and 35 billion gallons by 2050 by backing efforts to increase SAF producers and supply.
In the meantime, United is releasing more than 30 videos, digital content pieces and social media posts like the one below from Facebook to promote their SAF initiative. These put Oscar on planes and tarmacs.
United is asking customers to contribute either $1, $3.50 or $7 to the initiative when they buy their tickets. But Lauren Riley, United’s chief sustainability officer, told the Washington Post that while United would love it if customers contribute a few dollars per ticket towards converting its fleet to SAF-fueled planes, this alone wouldn’t completely fund a SAF switch. The campaign is more about getting people to realize what is possible and start to expect that, she said.
What do you think about Oscar’s new trash-talking job to promote sustainable aviation fuel?