The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer and aviation journalist.
In his keynote address on the future of the fuels industry at last week’s annual convention of the Petroleum Equipment Industry in Atlanta, Dr. Phillip Verleger, a professor at the University of Calgary and a noted expert on the oil industry, called the U.S. mandates on ethanol production a “gimmick” devised to benefit primarily the agricultural and ethanol industries.
Reinforced by comments from petroleum legal authority Jeff Leiter in his regulatory outlook and a panel of government and industry experts on the subject of E15, Verleger described how the consumption of E10 ethanol is falling fall short of production mandates from the EISA 2007 RFS law.
Despite widespread objections to E15, most recently from auto makers, the EPA is expected this month to approve its use in vehicles built since 2007. Pending ongoing testing, it may also be approved for older vehicles in the coming year.
Noticeably absent from discussions at the PEI Convention was mention of the millions of engines in the U.S. that may not be operated with any level of ethanol, including 70%-80% of all piston-engine aircraft. Ironically, the lack of ethanol-free Mogas at our airports results in the use of leaded Avgas at levels far greater than is necessary, at a time when the EPA is calling on the end of its use in the next decade
In remarks to me after the E15 panel discussion, Steve Przesmitzki, the DOE’s Manager for Fuels and Lubricants Technology, admitted that even if all fuel sold in the U.S. were E15, consumption would still lag behind the RFS mandates. He predicted the need to raise the level to E20 or higher in the coming years or changes to the RFS mandates would be needed.
Even should the EPA approve E15 this year, many hurdles must be overcome before it may be – legally – sold. So far, 35 states have laws that limit ethanol blends to E10. The required legislative action to increase levels to E15 is expected to require two or more years, and massive opposition can be expected. Other than relatively few E85 gas stations in the country, current fueling stations do not have UL approval to handle E15, and Underwriters Lab has already stated that the use of E15 will require new fuel equipment costing billions. Few equipment suppliers offer products today that are capable of handling more than 10% ethanol. As Verleger accurately described the situation, America’s ethanol policy is “a train wreck in progress.”
Submitted by Kent Misegades