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EAA Working To Modify Proposed Michigan Ethanol Legislation

October 18, 2007 — FAA studies have shown that gasoline and ethanol mixtures can cause serious problems with the operation of aircraft engines, which is why EAA is so vigilant on behalf of its members and other aviation enthusiasts when states propose laws to require ethanol additives in auto fuel. EAA has been monitoring proposed legislation in Michigan where two bills (one in the House, one in the Senate) would mandate ethanol additives in all gasoline sold in the state, thereby affect many aircraft owners and others. (Ethanol additives can also be harmful to powerboats, vintage cars, recreational vehicles, lawn mowers, chain saws, motorcycles, 2-cycle garden tools, and other machines.)

Thanks in part to the involvement of EAA members in Michigan, the two bills have yet to make it out of committee. They are House Bill 4198, which would require all gasoline sold to consumers beginning January 31, 2008 to contain at least 10 percent ethanol; and Senate Bill 0033, which would require all gasoline sold to consumers beginning December 31, 2007 to contain at least 2 percent ethanol.

In an EAA e-Alert this week, EAA asked its Michigan members to once again contact their elected state officials and urge their opposition to a statewide ethanol mandate and instead support exempting premium grade autofuel from ethanol-blending requirements. Such a measure would ensure that ethanol-free fuel would be widely available to those who require it.

"EAA is not opposed to ethanol-blended autofuel per se," said Randy Hansen, director of government affairs. "But we oppose the blanket mandate that literally cuts people off from their fuel source."

In Michigan, nearly 2,000 FAA-authorized autofuel supplemental type certificates (STC) have been issued by EAA and Peterson Aviation. Within the autofuel STC instructions as well as official FAA communications, the use of ethanol-blended autofuel in strictly prohibited. (See the FAA's Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin).

In addition, all future special light-sport aircraft are designed to stringent ASTM/FAA standards to operate on unleaded gasoline - many powered by Rotax engines that will not operate well on ethanol-blended gasoline.

The FAA reports that ethanol-blended gasoline causes three primary concerns for aircraft:

  • It adversely affects volatility of the fuel, leading to vapor lock.
  • Ethanol is not compatible with rubber seals, fiberglass fuel tanks, and other aircraft fuel system components.
  • Ethanol tends to develop "phase separation" as the aircraft climbs, the resulting water (that was held by the ethanol) could overwhelm fuel filters/sediment bowls.

Extensive studies by EAA, the FAA, Cessna, and others all came to the same conclusion: A 10 percent ethanol blend in auto gasoline is not compatible with aircraft use.

In Michigan and other states that have proposed ethanol mandates, EAA urges legislators to adopt what Montana and Missouri did--require a 10 percent ethanol blend in all regular gasoline, but exempt premium gasoline (octane rating of 91 or greater). This simple solution would allow ethanol-free premium gasoline to remain widely available those who need it.

Montana law - http://data.opi.state.mt.us/bills/mca/82/15/82-15-122.htm - exemptions from use of ethanol-blended gasoline.

  1. Gasoline that is not ethanol-blended as required may be sold or dispensed at a public or private racecourse if the gasoline is intended to be used exclusively as a fuel for off-highway motor sports racing events.
  2. Gasoline retailers and wholesale bulk distributors shall hold, store, import, transfer, and offer for sale or use nonethanol-blended unleaded premium grade gasoline with an antiknock index number of 91 or greater.
  3. Aviation fuel is not subject to an ethanol blending requirement.

Missouri law - http://www.house.mo.gov/bills061/biltxt/truly/HB1270T.htm - The following shall be exempt from the provisions of this section:

  1. Aviation fuel and automotive gasoline used in aircraft
  2. Premium gasoline
  3. E75-E85 fuel ethanol
  4. Any specific exemptions declared by the United States Environmental Protection Agency
  5. Bulk transfers between terminals.

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