Readers might have seen Maine’s Morning Sentinel report about the loss of mogas at the Norridgewock, Maine, airport (OWK). There was another airport in Maine that used to have mogas up until a couple of months ago, Sanford Regional (SFM), and the Lakeside Marina Seaplane Base in East Winthrop advertises mogas, but it now has ethanol in it.It is the changeover period for the refineries from summer to winter blend that is the best time of the year to retune the refinery to make BOB (Blendstock for Oxygenated Blending), the base product for making E10. Unfortunately it has lower octane, so no premium unleaded need be made anymore and most BOB is not legal to sell as finished gasoline because it may have other chemical tweaks for ethanol, which means no regular unleaded is available either. So this is the time of year you start seeing ethanol spreading farther and wider and more airports losing mogas. According to AirNav, on March 15, there were 119 airports with mogas service; today AirNav is reporting 108. Clearly one of those was Sanford Regional in Maine and next month it will be Norridgewock and the anchorage in East Winthrop will be delisted.
However there was an interesting twist in the Morning Sentinel newspaper article that affects GA. Two Maine state legislators were quoted about an attempt by the Maine legislature to ensure the availability of ethanol free gasoline for their marine and aviation industry:
“Strang Burgess and Sen. Lisa Marraché, D-Waterville, discovered exactly that when they proposed a bill during the last legislative session to require retail dealers and distributors to offer nonethanol fuel. The bill stalled because “it wasn’t something we could fix at the state level,” Strang Burgess said. It’s a federal issue, she said, driven by fuel standards.”
What “fuel standards”? My guess is that some representative of the gasoline industry stated that at a bill hearing, but it is a lie. I heard the same statement at public hearings in the state of Washington on a bill to protect the marine industry from the effects of ethanol blended fuel.
The question that the politicians from Maine should have asked is, “OK, show me the federal statute.” While ethanol blending is being driven by the RFS mandate portion of EISA 2007, there is no federal statute that says all gasoline must be E10 in that act. In fact E10 is never mentioned in the act; EISA 2007 is a corporate welfare act for E85 and flex-fuel vehicles. Will somebody please read the act? Repeating: There is no mandatory federal E10 law !
If you are a pilot and you are concerned about the disappearance of ethanol free fuel at airports, I urge you to write your state legislators and tell them how ethanol is affecting you and making sure that they understand that they have the power to protect their aviation, marine and public safety industries.
I urge you to get involved before there is more economic impact on GA. The problem in Maine is spreading.
Submitted by Dean Billing
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.
For a list of airports that have ethanol-free fuel and those no longer pumping it, compiled by the authors, follow this link.