There are no simple answers to complex problems: And no magic pill for unleaded avgas

In my last column I berated the author of a letter to the editor about a simple solution to the unleaded fuel crisis (The definition of insanity, Sept. 7 issue).


In my last column I berated the author of a letter to the editor about a simple solution to the unleaded fuel crisis (The definition of insanity, Sept. 7 issue).

The thing that bothered me most is that people are looking for simple solutions to complex questions. They find answers that sound good but ignore one or more technicalities or problems that are impossible or negate the entire solution.

For example, there recently was a gentleman on one of the national TV shows who was presented as a world renowned expert. He stated that the world energy crisis and the global warming trend could all be fixed if the government would just put its energy and resources into converting everything to hydrogen power.

Now he was partially correct in that, when an internal combustion engine is converted from burning a hydrocarbon fuel to pure hydrogen, the carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and unburned hydrocarbon emissions are basically eliminated. The only problem with his theory is the source of the hydrogen. One can get hydrogen from crude oil, but there is presently a shortage, so that will not help. If you try to get hydrogen from water, it would take twice as much energy to remove the hydrogen as you would get when burning it. His theory was partially correct, but flawed.

Where do these world-renowned experts come from and why do people listen to them? I believe that they probably have worked in some part of the industry, but their main talent is that they can make their case with conviction. When an expert is needed for a TV spot or a trial, they come up with a script that makes the point needed for the story, which the “”expert”" delivers with authority. The masses or the jury go away thinking they now have all of the answers.

Now I do not know everything. In fact, the more I learn, the less I know. But I do know that there are usually no simple answers to complex problems.

If we hope to find a solution to an unleaded fuel for aviation, it will involve a lot of hard work by a lot of people. We will need cooperation from engine and fuel manufacturers, plus government agencies, FBOs, pilot groups, and engine mod shops, as well as a whole lot of other people. In other words, no magic pill, just hard work by everyone involved.

I always maintain that 98% of the world?s “”experts”" give the other 2% a bad name. I also claim to be in the 2% ? but who in his right mind would believe an expert?

Ben Visser is an aviation fuels and lubricants expert who spent 33 years with Shell Oil. He has been a private pilot since 1985. You can contact him at Visser@GeneralAviationNews.com.

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