A Green Injection for Britain’s Manufacturing Heartlands

Labour’s roots will always lie in Britain’s manufacturing heartlands. But as we learnt from the 2019 General Election, we lost our way in representing these communities. After 13 years of Tory rule, Britain now heavily relies on imports to support critical industries; like steel and energy, instead of producing goods locally to support its economy.

The problem with that, as we saw during Covid, is when the global supply chain sneezes Britain catches a cold. That’s why Labour is right to make sure that Britain produces much more at home, and one new industry where Britain can get a massive head start is the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels – or SAFs.

Unlike traditional jet-fuel, SAFs are produced from municipal waste such as; used cooking oils, biomass, animal fats and recyclable carbon fuels which include waste plastics and industrial carbon monoxide. SAFs have the potential to reduce the lifecycle of Co2 emissions by 80% compared to normal jet-fuel, and the International Air Transport Association estimates SAF usage alone can contribute up to 65% of the carbon emission reductions needed for the aviation industry to reach net-zero by 2050. These fuels are not the distant future of aviation. Whilst hydrogen and electric propulsion for aviation is the future – SAFs are ready now. They can be mixed directly into conventional jet fuel, and 100% SAF flights have been successfully tested in commercial transatlantic flights.

But there’s a catch, we currently don’t make enough SAF for it to be price competitive against traditional jet-fuel, that’s why the UK needs to quickly scale up production and introduce a price incentive mechanism akin to the ‘contracts for difference’ scheme that makes the nuclear power industry viable. SAFs could be Labour’s launchpad for a greener aviation sector and thousands of new unionised jobs in our former industrial heartlands – creating new hope for many red wall constituencies.

Aside from the clear environmental benefits of decarbonisation, investing in a home-grown SAF industry has the potential to kick-start Britain’s ailing manufacturing sector, producing 60,000 new jobs and £10 billion in Gross Value. A massive expansion of production capacity could be a boon for areas like Teesside – once proudly the champion of Britain’s chemical industry. Good, clean, well paid unionised jobs are within reach.

The United States has already set up SAF refineries and is subsidising the production of SAFs through Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act – making it cheaper for airlines to buy and ensuring more of it is produced. Germany is following suit. Labour’s commitment to invest £28 billion in the green economy is excellent news. The potential for green growth and jobs in sustainable aviation fuel could dovetail with that plan.

This Tory government is letting investment for growth dry up – keeping Britain reliant on imports and ultimately leaving skilled British jobs to wither on the vine. Sustainable Aviation Fuels offer the next Labour government the chance to make a real impact on decarbonisation and provide a green injection for Britain’s manufacturing heartlands. If the UK doesn’t lead in this new global industry, then others will.

Parmjit Dhanda