Anti-Green Aviation Industry Finally Getting the Lead Out

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration – FAA – announced today that it has received ten replacement fuel proposals to get the lead out – finally – in fuel used by piston-powered airplanes.

The general aviation sector through trade groups – GAMA, airplane and engine makers, as well as members of Congress who fly has fiercely resisted doing anything about this destructive and toxic use of lead in so-called 100 low lead fuel (aka 100ll or avgas) going back to the last century.

A lawsuit in California by Friends of the Earth two years ago against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency protesting the agency’s failure to regulate lead emissions from aircraft that burn avgas, which is responsible for approximately half of the country’s airborne lead, finally forced the sleeping federal regulatory agencies – EPA and FAA, which clearly has conflicting goals in its charter  – safety and the business promotion of the airplane industry – to take action. Leaded fuels in automobiles ended during the 1970s of course, and the science surrounding the detrimental effects of lead has only increased concerns since then. (See A Geospatial Analysis of the Effects of Aviation Gasoline on Childhood Blood Lead Levels)

There are roughly 167,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States that use aviation gasoline. This is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains lead additives, a clearly poisonous substance. Commercial airplanes do not use leaded gas, but are emitting a large amount of greenhouse gases into the upper atmosphere – with no plans being offered to cut such emissions of CO2 or other harmful pollutants to anywhere near the reduction  in levels that automakers  – by concerted efforts and regulation – have achieved since the 1970s. The regulatory hypocrisy here is self evident.

The FAA claims it will now assess the viability of candidate fuels to determine which fuels may be part of the first phase of laboratory testing at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ. The goal – laughable given years of inaction of the FAA’s part according to environmentalists – is for government and industry to “work together” to have a new unleaded fuel by 2018.

Afton Chemical Company, Avgas LLC, Shell, Swift Fuels and a consortium of BP, Total and Hjelmco are among the participants in a program that is being forced by the increasing scrutiny of the use of lead by public health groups, and spurred as noted by court actions against it.

“We’re committed to getting harmful lead out of general aviation fuel,” claimed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Congress authorized $6 million for the fiscal year 2014 budget to support the test program at the FAA Technical Center. Yes, more pork.

On 10 June 2013, the FAA asked fuel producers to submit proposals for replacement fuels by 1 July 2014. The goal is to identify, select, and provide fleet wide certification for fuels determined to have the “lowest impact” on the general aviation fleet.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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