Support Electrification at Regional Airports to Preserve Competitiveness & Improve Health Outcomes

Author: Lauren Shum


The Biden-Harris Administration, Congress, and state legislatures should adopt measures to reduce the substantial health and environmental impact of America’s 5,000+ public airports while improving the competitiveness of American aviation. Aviation is our largest non-agricultural export industry, but we are losing our technological advantage to countries that have prioritized sustainable aviation technologies. Because our airports and aircraft use outdated technology, they disproportionately pollute the often-disadvantaged communities adjacent to them, while providing insufficient benefits and job opportunities to local residents. Fixing this public health problem should start with the immediate phaseout of leaded aviation fuel, which is the largest source of lead emissions in the US. This should also be coupled with incentivizing advancements in sustainable aviation technology. The phaseout and innovation incentivization can be accomplished through regulatory agency mandates, new fees collected from combustion aircraft users, reprioritization of existing recurring federal funds for aviation, and allocation of additional funding—such as from the proposed national infrastructure plan—towards sustainable solutions. The focus of this funding should be comprehensive electrification of the entire aviation ecosystem, including airports, ground vehicles, support equipment, and aircraft. Electrification will remove the lead concern while also reducing other pollution and creating jobs. Funding for pollution mitigation and green job creation should be directed toward disadvantaged communities located near airports and US-based small businesses developing green aviation technologies. These actions must be taken immediately, lest our public health continue to suffer, and lest we jeopardize the future of the US aviation industry.

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About the Author

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Lauren Shum is an engineer passionate about the intersection between clean technology and policy. She was most recently Vice President of Engineering at Sunforge, an early pioneer in MPPT charge controllers for off-grid solar applications, as well as an executive board member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Boston Hub. Previously at DEKA R&D, Ms. Shum led sensor development in a public-private partnership to scale manufacturing for engineered tissues. She received her B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Duke University.

Disclaimer: The policy proposal presented here represents contributions of the author alone and does not represent the official position of the author’s present or former employers.