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EAAers Working With Oregonians to Solve Looming Ethanol Fuel Dilemma

January 4, 2008 — EAA staff experts in Oshkosh are working with members and state officials in Oregon on potential fuel availability problems that may arise for some pilots when legislation mandating a 10 percent ethanol blend for most gasoline sold in the state goes into effect this year. Governor Ted Kulongoski signed House Bill 2210 into law last year, which contains the ethanol additive provision. Implementation begins in northwestern counties January 15, 2008, with other areas of the state facing compliance by April 15 and September 16.

An unintended consequence of this legislation will affect owners and pilots of aircraft that require auto fuel for operation. The FAA clearly states in a Special Airworthiness Bulletin (SAIB CE-07-06) that flying with ethanol-blended autofuel is not allowed under the supplementary type certificates (STC) issued by both EAA and Peterson Aviation and is therefore illegal.

EAA's November e-Notice to Oregon members about the issue prompted several meetings and discussions led by EAA members Dennis Douglas (EAA Chapter 1345) and Dick Scott (EAA Chapter 902), along with Dan Clem, director of the Oregon department of aviation, and representatives from the Oregon Pilots Association. The most recent meeting - held December 12 - brought no substantive solutions regarding ethanol blends in fuels used for aviation or other recreational purposes.

The legislature will reconvene in February, so EAA members, general/recreational aviation pilots, owners, and businesses in Oregon are now rallying to write and call their state legislators, urging them to amend the current law to exempt premium-grade autofuel from the ethanol mandate for five years. Conventional wisdom suggests that, by that time, manufacturers of all affected equipment will have been able to work out a viable and safe solution to the engine/fuel system hazards created by ethanol-blended fuel.

For more information on this issue, read the status brief, "Oregon Avgas-Where are we and where do we go from here?" co-authored by Douglas and Scott, along with EAA's Earl Lawrence and Randy Hansen.

While HB-2210 did not specifically exempt aviation fuels, officials from the state agriculture and justice departments concluded that that the legislation doesn't cover fuels used in aircraft, and therefore they do not require an "exemption." But no provision was made for Oregon pilots to actually be able to obtain the ethanol-free fuel they need.

Several states besides Oregon are considering or have passed legislation requiring ethanol in autogas. At EAA's urging, Missouri and Montana exempted premium-grade fuel, while other states have come up with variations of their own.

EAA staff resources in Oshkosh will continue to work with local EAA members throughout the nation who are facing fuel availability problems as the result of well-intended legislation that aims to lessen dependence on fossil fuels.

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