For most of two decades now, we’ve been told that unleaded avgas was going to be standardized and distributed nationwide and worldwide, and “we’re on the precipice now, and the EPA and the FAA are leading the charge!”
On January 12, they promised imminence again, with a “news release” (quotations intentional and attitudinal) from the EPA that amounted to this time it means business.
- Read the official EPA press release here: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-evaluate-whether-lead-emissions-piston-engine-aircraft-endanger-human-health-and
The press release is led by the only paragraph you really need to read.
WASHINGTON (Jan. 12, 2022) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it will evaluate whether emissions from piston-engine aircraft operating on leaded fuel contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. The agency plans to issue a proposal for public review and comment in 2022 and take final action in 2023.
Does anybody believe the EPA is going to find that leaded gas isn’t bad for the environment? Do we need a study to prove that pollution is bad? If you have an opinion (and apparently opinions are being considered in this “study”) you can go here: https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/petitions-and-epa-response-memorandums-related-lead
Now, as has been stated time and again by pilots and aviation experts alike, nobody disagrees avgas should be unleaded. It’s better for the environment, and it’s better for engines. But if you want to know what’s really going to happen soon (which, it says here, will be “nothing at all”) you’d be better off reading a pair of articles on AVweb.
- Read “Sleepwalking To 100UL” here: https://www.avweb.com/insider/sleep-walking-to-100ul/
- Read “EPA Announces Leaded Fuel Endangerment Finding” here: https://www.avweb.com/aviation-news/epa-launches-formal-strategy-to-eliminate-leaded-aviation-fuel/
“Sleepwalking” in the first article’s headline was well-considered. It’s getting a little old having to “cover” a news story that isn’t at all news. We have articles on our website going back to 2015, when Swift was on the precipice of achieving something that didn’t wind up mattering: https://cessnaowner.org/swift-fuels-launches-unleaded-94-mon-avgas-at-oshkosh-2015/
And a year later, when we posted an article on our website declaring great progress: https://cessnaowner.org/unleaded-avgas-development-the-heavy-lifting-continues/
There is actually real news on the topic, of course. We know that GAMI is actually working toward something, and this time that will actually happen: https://cessnaowner.org/oshkosh-airventure-2021-review-100-octane-no-lead-gas-steals-the-show/ And at least GAMI didn’t pretend it would be “soon.” The company has been mostly passive about announcing any real timelines.
Whether this is a government-can’t-do-anything fiasco, or a natural and understandable consequence of having to rework an entire industry’s fuel, is debatable. And it’s not as if any other country has figured this out. Yes, there are approved unleaded fuels in Europe …
… but they aren’t any more available than unleaded fuels are here in the US. So Europe is facing similar situations. Here’s an article from the European branch of AOPA: https://www.iaopa.eu/contentServlet/iaopa-europe-enews-august-2021—special-edition
The bottom line is that nothing matters until public and private forces work together to make unleaded avgas available nationwide for an affordable price. Nothing is going to happen until then.
Add it all up, and I have no idea what happens next, but I guess the point is, nobody does. We don’t need another press release or a fake study that is going to prove that pollution is bad to tell us that.
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