Was it only me, or did anyone else find the press release by the FAA announcing that it has selected four fuels for further testing to replace 100LL this fall to be a bit peculiar? In case you you missed it, the official press release from the FAA is here. Articles also appeared on this site, General Aviation News, and from the EAA.
None of the articles answered any of the obvious questions that came immediately to my mind, for instance:
- Two of the largest fuel producers in the world were selected: Shell and Total. These multinational oil behemoths have had more than three decades to come up with an unleaded 100 octane product, but only now that the federal government is willing to throw taxpayer money at the problem do they claim to have found a solution.
- Swift has been touting its binary 100 octane solution for about five years if my recollection is right. But now it has two solutions, including one that we’ve never heard of. And Swift itself can’t tell if one is better than the other?
- Finally, the most obvious question to ask right now is: What is the estimated cost for these solutions compared to 100LL? These companies are submitting known products for testing. They have to know the cost of the components in comparison to components of 100LL in production today.
Up until now all of these companies have skirted the issue of estimated cost because they claimed it was all R&D, or trade secret or competitive secret, yadda, yadda, yadda, ad infinitum. But now they are submitting a producible product that they know the components of and they ought to be able to project the cost knowing they will be filling a market of perhaps 200 million gallons/year for which demand continues to decline.
If these solutions aren’t competitive with today’s cost to produce 100LL, it will make little difference whether they are technically viable solutions because GA will continue to circle the drain, but at an accelerating rate, decreasing demand even faster.