Q&A on the future of avgas

Why are we doing this? How long will it take?

September 7, 2010

Question: Since total avgas consumption is miniscule compared to fuel consumed by autos, trucks, and lawn mowers, why is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even bothering general aviation with 100LL lead emissions?

Answer : Since the 1971 passage of the Clean Air Act, the EPA reasonably viewed the impact of 100LL on the air quality in the United States as de minimis. Avgas represents one third of 1 percent of all gasoline sales in the United States. However, the EPA’s “hand was forced” by a 2006 petition brought by the environmental group Friends of the Earth to review the lead emissions from 100LL in light of the 1971 Clean Air Act.


Question: Why not just fight the EPA?

Answer : There is a broad industry consensus that the EPA’s “forced hand” was the final straw that will eventually break the back of 100LL. There are other issues involved here beyond the known hazards of leaded gasoline. Example: There is only one single supplier of tetraethyl lead (TEL) in the world. While the supplier has committed to making TEL available throughout the transition period, there may come a time when continued production of TEL is economically unfeasible. Therefore, the industry needs to continue preparing now.


Question: My aircraft engine requires 100LL. What are my options for the foreseeable future?

Answer : The supply of 100LL will remain readily available during the transition. The industry has met with the sole remaining producer of the lead additive required to produce 100LL—and received assurances that the company will continue to produce the additive throughout the transition period.


Question: What is the timing of the change-over to a new unleaded avgas?

Answer : The EPA has taken the first steps down a road that would eventually lead to an unleaded aviation gasoline. The process will take a number of years.


Question: This seems remarkably complicated. Between the EPA, the FAA, petroleum producers, engine manufactures, FBOs, researchers trying to “invent” a new fuel, and the interests of 164,000 aircraft owners, how can this ever be resolved safely, fairly, and economically?

Answer : It is very complicated and all stakeholders must be party to a solution. Therefore, it will take many years for a transition to occur. That is why AOPA, other members of the GA industry, and petroleum industries have formed a coalition to map the path that will lead to a new single formulation that will meet the needs of the entire fleet. Congress recognizes the complications as well, and with AOPA’s urging, approved a request for an additional $2 million for the FAA’s 2011 research and development budget that is specifically intended to support the development of an alternative to leaded avgas.