The Midwest is Awash in E0 Mogas
To travel across the country buying gasoline is to be alternately amused, infuriated and perplexed. And I'm not talking about the price, nor am I referring to avgas. Mogas is on my mind for today's consideration.
To get to AirVenture this year, Val and I did the trip by motorcycle, a big grand swing along the Gulf Coast, through Texas, Oklahoma and the heart of the corn belt; Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. And I began to notice something odd, especially in Kansas. All the gas stations we're selling E0; 91-octane premium with no ethanol. And many of them were pushing it too, with signs blaring: "We have ethanol-free gas." This leads me to conclude that anyone who still says you can't find E0 for aviation use isn't looking very hard, at least in the Midwest. The perplexing part is why they're pushing it so hard. Is there really that big a market for E0? Who's buying it? While there is a national mandate for use of ethanol in gasoline, none of those states have their own mandates, including Iowa.
Despite the largesse of ethanol revenue, are the locals rebelling, insisting on alcohol-free gasoline? Beats me, but the stuff is out there. It's also about 50 cents more a gallon than E10. I kept meaning to buy a tank to see if the higher mileage would offset the extra cost, but I never got around to it. By the time we got into Indiana, no more E0.
The infuriating part was that in Kansas, all the pumps had a little corn smiley-sticker icon that said "enriched with 10 percent ethanol." Wow, thanks. I feel much better now, knowing the fuel is enriched. Here all along I thought the ethanol program was just a giant, obscene treasury-deflating windfall for Big Ag.
You'd think with all that E0 around, more aircraft owners would adopt it. And while mogas is easier to find on airports in the Midwest than anywhere else, it still fails to make significant inroads. Price may be part of it; the price delta is a buck to $1.50 against avgas. Maybe that's just not enough. I think the larger issue is the persistent irrational bias against mogas use. I've personally conducted enough research to satisfy myself that the complaints and warnings are all but unfounded. I have a file full of mogas success stories.
Yet, the doubts persist. Last winter, when I was at Air Plains in Wellington, Kansas, covering the company's ADI system, we were sitting around the table chatting about things in general. The Inpulse ADI system, of course, allows the use of mogas in high-performance engines that would otherwise require 100-octane. I idly asked if any of the Air Plains people were using mogas. Actually, they weren't. No particular reason; no fear of bad things happening. They just weren't using it. And neither am I, for no particular reason. And if we aren't, neither are a lot of other owners and so airports don't hear a call for installing pumps. And the status quo rolls on.
Speaking of boondoggles like ethanol, I wonder if we were looking at another one during our trip: wind farms. One reason I wanted to go through Texas was to see the little town where I was born, Borger, Texas. Anyone in the oil biz knows about Borger. It was an epic oil boom town, growing from zero to about 45,000 people in a mere 60 days in 1927 when oil was discovered in the Palo Duro basin. Phillips moved in and built a refinery and it still makes avgas, one of the few left.
I grew up around the rumble of trucks carting drill pipe and pump jacks, night and day. Now the trucks cart something else: wind turbine components. And they are everywhere. It's hard to describe how this has transformed the landscape and the highways. I hope the companies investing in this new boom know what they're doing, because the investment is staggering. On our ride north into Oklahoma, I was counting the turbines on one farm and stopped at 200. After a while, you really get sick of looking at the damn things.
I noticed the same thing in Germany when I rode there in June. I also noticed something else: billboards in some small towns opposing wind mills. I'm not a German speaker, but I could get the gist of it. We're too much in the midst of it all to judge if we're really seeing an energy transition with legs or just a fad. But an eyesore is an eyesore, no matter what the language.
With the Reno Air Races upon us again, Mark Magin sent us this link to an interview he did with Steve Hinton describing what it's like to be the race pace pilot. I can't think of a more unique job in all of aviation. Mark, by the way, is our annual neighbor at AirVenture. He does the onboard aerial imagery for the show and his trailer is next to ours in the media mall. Here's a video we did on his work last year.