Boaters unite to oppose ethanol; where are aviation’s leaders?

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.

As word of the EPA’s approval last week of E15 spreads across America, those who will be affected are finally beginning to pay attention. As Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) described in his letter to The Hill this week, 17 million boaters face the same problem that 80% of all piston-engine airplane owners do – where’s the Mogas?

Like us, most owners of pleasure water craft must use ethanol-free gasoline to avoid damage to their fuel systems, engines and fuel tanks. Since 96% of these boaters obtain their fuel at the local gas station, the disappearance of ethanol-free fuel could result in expensive or severe safety issues, such as when an engine malfunctions far from shore.

Unlike marine groups and their media, such as this article in Marlin, that have strongly and publicly advocated for a continued supply of ethanol-free fuel, our aviation alphabet groups have been largely silent, with the notable exception of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA). Since nearly 100% of all new LSA aircraft are powered by engines (Rotax, Jabiru, etc.) that are designed to best operate on 91 octane ethanol-free unleaded gasoline, LAMA has a strong interest in assuring a continued supply of Mogas.

Ironically, the disappearance of Mogas, the affordable, unleaded avgas, as an option for pilots, results in far greater use of leaded fuel than is necessary, contrary to the effort of the EPA to ban its use.

Now is the time for the leaders of the EAA, AOPA, GAMA and LAMA to join forces with other organizations such as NMMA to call on Congress to prohibit the blending of ethanol in premium gasoline, preserving an option that will not only reduce leaded fuel consumption, but significantly reduce the cost of flying.


  1. says

    The GA Caucus is a bad joke. It is there just to serve NBAA, GAMA and AOPA. My representative here in Oregon who isn’t a pilot is a member. He doesn’t know squat about GA. He didn’t lift a finger when Cessna shut down the Columbia factory in his district, doubt he knew it was even here. He won’t answer my emails and his staff will not return my calls on the ethanol problem being caused by EISA 2007, which he voted for.

    I can guarantee you that there isn’t one member in the GA Caucus that knows that ethanol free unleaded auto fuel is an approved aviation fuel, I even doubt that FAA Administrator Babbitt knows it and certainly EPA Administrator Jackson doesn’t know it.

  2. says

    Where is the GA Caucus in all of this? Aren’t they the elected leaders that ride herd on the bureaucrats in epa, and tsa? Both of these entities are runaway and need to be curbed. Vote for the challengers, and dump the incumbents. Take care and good luck to us all.mb

  3. says

    Well said, Jack. BTW, 91 octane ethanol-free Mogas actually contains 3%-5% more BTUs per gallon than 100LL. The octane ratings are obtained using different methods, therefore some assume that Mogas has less energy/gallon than 100LL when in fact it is the opposite.

    One correction to my last sentence above: the EPA is responsible for the RFS ethanol mandates in EISA 2007. They have the authority to prohibit ethanol in Premium, just as they demonstrated with their recent decision allowing E15. We recommend all aviators and aviation alphabet groups to contact the EPA administrator and voice their opinion.

    Now, why our own alphabet groups remain silent on Mogas remains a mystery to us, too. Many talk about the need to keep flying affordable; few really work to achieve it.

  4. Jack Thompson says

    I can’t quite understand that the EPA, FAA and the alphabet groups are all wrapped around the axle about a lead-free replacement for 100LL, yet they can’t speak to or support the availability of a 94 or so octane unleaded premium mogas which would reduce the amount of leaded gas burned by aircraft by 60-75% with no technical feasibility questions, development etc. Reasonable people might think that was a complete solution. Not to mention that the potential savings might re-invigorate instruction and the general level of flight activity. I’ve used mogas in my Skylane ever since the EAA STC with nothing but savings. It has kept me flying. If I can’t keep using un-ethanol-ed unleaded, I don’t know if I can stay in aviation. $5/gallon avgas just stings like hell when the same BTU’s are available across the fence for $2.80

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