Debates must continue to find solutions to aviation’s upcoming technical challenges

I recently received a letter, “Is global warming debate over?”, from Peter Mortensen criticizing one of my previous columns. I appreciated his letter and he made several valid points. Letters, even critical ones, ensure that we stay centered and help us ensure that what we write is valid and can stand up to scrutiny.

However, I disagree with some of his comments, including when he says “the debate is over,” implying that we should all accept global warming as fact and not question any part of it. I stated very clearly that I did not have a clue as to whether or not there is global warming. But Mr. Mortensen was apparently offended that I would even question some of the data and how it has been analyzed.

I agree that we should protect our environment, but feel that solutions like ethanol do not help the environment. I’ve read several recent studies that show ethanol actually increases total emissions if one takes into account all production, transportation and manufacturing effects. I feel that our only hope to find reasonable solutions to today’s problems is if we have open and informed debate. Unfortunately, most of the debate today is based on profit or political motive, with the facts slanted to show only the sponsor’s view.

In his letter, Mr. Mortensen also noted that we should do everything we can to reduce global warming — just in case it is real. Besides, what could it hurt? This type of logic just blows me away.

If we use this logic in aviation, then we would say, “Let’s get rid of leaded fuels, even though we have no evidence of any health hazard, just in case it could be harmful to someone, somewhere.” What could it hurt?

Let me see: It could cause numerous engine failures and possible accidents. This would result in lawsuits that could ruin many aviation companies. It could also make many airplanes worthless. It would take away many of the warbirds or at least make them so slow that they would need a five mile runway to get airborne and then need to struggle to keep up with a J-3 Cub. And, oh yes, it could put another nail in general aviation’s coffin, which many politicians would like to get rid of any way. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

The problem in GA — and the rest of the world — is that we are facing some very real technical problems in our future. But instead of technical solutions, we get solutions that sound good to the public or ones that the big money end of our society can make even bigger bucks on. Never mind that they do not solve the problem — they sound good or are at least profitable.

I would like to again thank Mr. Mortensen for his letter. I agree that we need to protect our environment. However, most of the solutions being proposed are not solutions but rather a “feel good thing” to get politicians elected and give an uninformed public the warm fuzzies.

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


  1. Pilot Guy says

    Go Ben! (In my opinion, global climate variation is certainly a reality; whether warming or cooling at present I cannot tell. The human contribution to this certain, sure and inevitable climate variation is almost immeasurable, but not because it is unknown; because it is so small. “Global warming” is not a fact, it is a slogan. Al Gore is not a prophet; he and others like him are in it for the profit. What started in the 1970s as a childlike concern for the fate of animals and plants and bugs has morphed into a cynical engine of radical agenda items all of which share one common characteristic — they would drain money from those of us who have a little of it to those of them who have more already. We need to pull the plug on the “environmentalist” agenda and get back to responsible management of resources. Responsible management means responsible acquisition and use, not abandonment nor reliance on wishful thinking. Let’s drill where we have oil and gas and make sure the drilling is conducted safely and responsibly. Lets continue to develop clean, efficient engines and vehicles, recognizing that powerful ones are also appropriate for applications requiring power. Lets evaluate the contention that wind or geothermal energy can help in a significant way — is that true? Show me the data, then lets verify it. And lets stop listening to hucksters like Gore, who use twisted logic and falsified data to support unreasonable positions. If Al needs something else to do, I’ll teach him to run my brand new snow thrower….)

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