At forum, Delta CEO talks sustainability and ending oil purchases from Russia

Ed Bastian
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian says the government should invest to help find cleaner fuel options for the aviation industry. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

The CEO of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines says a major government investment is needed to develop aviation fuels that are better for the environment.

“The good news is that we’ve already seen this in our country, we saw it with autos,” Ed Bastian said. “And you look at the boom of EVs now. The reason why, is because the government provided the incentives and the subsidies and still to this day do that.”

Speaking Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Atlanta Press Club, Bastian says airlines can also do their part now by investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft. He says Delta accelerated efforts to replace its fleet during the pandemic.

“It’s not built on sustainable aviation fuels, but it’s making a big difference in the footprint,” said Bastain. “And every plane that we take — and this year we’ll probably take 75 new planes into our fleet, is coming about 20-25% on average more fuel-efficient.”

Atlanta Press Club forum
(Left to right) moderators Maria Saporta and Nick Valencia along with Georgia Tech president Angel Cabrera and Delta CEO Ed Bastian. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Bastian says Delta is still committed to being a “net zero” carbon emission company by 2050, even though the pathway to get all the way there isn’t entirely clear at the moment.

“If you ask me now ‘do I know how I’m going to get 50% of the way there by 2050’, and I’d say ‘I do’,” said Bastian. “That’s pretty darn good, because maybe five years ago, I would have scratched my head.”

When asked about global events, Bastian said the refinery owned by Delta was no longer purchasing oil from what was once one of its largest sources — Russia.

“As soon as I found out about it, we immediately, immediately — and we have a bunch of open contracts — and I stopped them before the sanctions went into place,” Bastian said.

The forum was held at Georgia Tech, with university president Ángel Cabrera joining Bastian on stage to discuss sustainability.

“A lot of the solutions that we’re going to see coming forward is not just new technology, but it’s the business model around that,” said Cabrera. “For us, it’s a key part of the puzzle is not just what happens in our aerospace engineering labs or mechanical engineering or biology, but it’s also what happens in the business school.”