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EAA, Members Fight Ethanol Legislation In Washington, Idaho


March 2, 2006 — EAA is working to modify pending state legislation in Washington and Idaho that would require ethanol to be added to all gasoline sold in those states, a move that would effectively ground hundreds of aircraft.

"We're asking our members in these states to contact their elected representatives and urge them to not just sweep a large number of their constituents - aviators - under the rug with this legislation," said EAA Vice President of Industry and Regulatory Affairs Earl Lawrence. "We've successfully influenced other state legislatures to make provisions that allow certain aircraft to continue operating with non-ethanol blended auto fuel, and we're looking to do the same thing here." EAA e-mailed eAlerts to its members in the two states this week asking for their help and participation to change this legislation.

In Washington, Senate Bill No. 6508 and House Bill 2738 would require all gasoline sold to consumers for use in motor vehicles to contain 2 percent denatured ethanol by December 1, 2008. No exceptions are proposed for aircraft engines that operate on auto fuel or for various recreational vehicles, and both bills also give the state Director of Agriculture the power to increase the ethanol percentage to 10 percent.

Aircraft cannot currently operate safely with fuel blended with ethanol products. There are currently more than 600 airplanes registered in Washington with FAA-approved auto fuel supplemental type certificate (STC), plus numerous ultralight vehicles and amateur-built aircraft that operate with engines that require auto fuel.

And it's not just aircraft owners; many recreational vehicles such as 4-wheelers, motorboats, and snowmobiles, as well as yard appliances like gas powered trimmers and chain saws, plus vintage automobiles cannot operate safely with ethanol-blended gasoline.

A simple, workable compromise, which was successfully advocated for by EAA and other organizations in Montana last year, exempts 91-octane, or premium grade fuel from having to include ethanol additives.

Even though pending Idaho Senate Bills No. 1267 and 1364 include aviation exemptions, EAA feels they are not practical. The problem arises at the delivery end of this exemption - the airport and the gasoline distributors.

The proposal says that 91-octane or higher gasoline can be exempted so long as the distributor responsible for the product complies with the following:

  • The outlet shall use no more than one storage tank
  • The pump stand dispensing the petroleum product under this exemption must be posted with a permanent notice stating "NONOXYGENATED GASOLINE FOR USE IN AIRCRAFT LEGALLY AUTHORIZED TO USE MOTOR VEHICLE FUEL ONLY." This notice must be posted at least two (2) feet above the ground."

Such an exemption only prompts more questions:

Does an airport have a fuel storage tank on the airport dedicated to autogas for aviation use only? If not would they be willing to install one?

What is the minimum size fuel tank gasoline distributors would accept for delivering special, non-ethanol premium gasoline to your airport? (Most, if not all, gasoline distributors will only deliver a full (5,000-gallon) tanker truck.)

If your airport is unable or unwilling to install the size of fuel storage tank required, do any of your surrounding airports offer autofuel for aviation uses?

The simple solution is for the state legislators and the state governor to modify the bill to allow one grade of gasoline - 91-octane or higher premium gasoline - to be ethanol-free. This will cover any and all possible combinations of exemptions to this propose new rule and allow ethanol-free premium gasoline to be available to all - aviation, vintage cars, recreational vehicles, etc. - at every gas station in the state.

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