Long Beach Subsidizes Unleaded Avgas


The City of Long Beach, California, is offering to pay piston aircraft operators to switch to unleaded fuel. Last week the city council of the Los Angeles suburb voted to have the city cover the $2-$4 per gallon difference between Swift Fuels and 100LL. In November, the city council voted to cover the cost of the STC needed for aircraft to legally use the fuel up to $300. Swift sells the STC for $100. The unleaded fuel has been at the Signature FBO at Long Beach since last August but hadn’t been selling well because it’s more expensive than standard avgas, so the city council stepped in. The $300,000 budget will come from airport operating revenues.

“Subsidizing the price difference of unleaded aviation fuel removes one of the major barriers for its widespread adoption,” said Councilman Daryl Supernaw. “I’m proud that our City is pressing ahead with local solutions ahead of the federal government’s timeline.” The FAA has set 2030 to have a universal replacement for 100LL. The UL94 can be used by about 70 percent of aircraft with spark ignition engines, but higher-performance types need 100 octane fuel.

General Aviation Modifications Inc. has developed a 100-octane unleaded fuel that is STC’d for all gasoline aircraft engines but it is not in general distribution. Swift Fuels is also developing an unleaded 100-octane fuel as is a partnership between LyondellBasell and VP Racing Fuels through the FAA’s EAGLE Initiative. Phillips 66 and Afton Chemical have suspended their effort after running into reliability issues with their fuel during testing.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Well … I’ll give LGB credit for that decision but … I wonder how long it’ll last? It’ll be a good test of the viability of the fuel in current engines.

  2. UL94 is supposed to be 100LL without the lead. Something is really wrong with the pricing if this product if this is really true.

  3. Well I’m completely not surprised at the need to subsidise it to try and get people to use it…. most people are too smart to use this IMO ‘hardly tested’ product. No way it’d go in anything I own until it’s been around several years with many many engines gone to TBO without issues first. Way too much history of changing things in aviation and resulting in massive law suits for product damage… Let’s not forget Mobil AV1 just for a start!

    • It’s 100UL without the lead additive. We’ve almost all been burning it – plus lead additive, creating that sludge that gums up our spark plugs – our entire piloting lives.

        • Sorry, quite right. I should have said 100LL without the lead additive. As you say, 100UL has something else in it, but not lead. 100LL without the lead additive is 94UL.

  4. Government subsidies only lead to even higher prices. These people don’t know the first thing about basic economics. Suggest they hire Thomas Sowell as their consultant. Cheap mogas could have been a simple and approved solution – starting 50 years ago. But California messed that up too by making it nearly impossible to find gasoline without horrible ethanol in it. See the nap of sellers at Pure-gas.org. The fuel suppliers though could have easily obtained it at terminals. We are so stupid in this dysfunctional country.

    • “Government subsidies only lead to even higher prices.”

      That’s not always true. The idea here is that it’s not a permanent subsidy, and is only there to kickstart more people buying the fuel so that market forces can take over and naturally bring the cost down so the subsidy can go away.

      “But California messed that up too by making it nearly impossible to find gasoline without horrible ethanol in it.”

      I’m not sure why you bring up California here specifically, since ethanol-free fuel is not a California-specific issue. If you really wanted to blame a state, you should blame the corn states since it was the corn lobby that pushed for ethanol in our fuel.

    • @Gary Baluha, Kent, Cheap mogas is the way to go for many of us. Mogas without alcohol works just fine in most STC eligible aircraft and likely in many that don’t have STCs for minor technical reasons, either Petersen or EAA, and is unrestricted by brand. Alcohol is not added at the refinery but blended with gasoline at the retail or jobber level or some other point along its distribution system, so it is not hard to not add alcohol to gasoline. If the old Avgas 80 space still exists, it will not be hard or expensive to put mogas in. My base airport still has the old tanks, and thus the space and pumps even if the tanks need to be replaced. They won’t use them. In Michigan, ethanol containing fuel had to be labeled as such at the pumps. Our current Sec. Energy, Jennifer Granholm removed the fuel labeling mandate when she was governor of Michigan. Draw your own conclusions about her competency in her present position. In other states, ETOH free fuel is readily available as “recreational and small engine fuel” in 91 or 94 octane at most gas stations, at about $1/gallon more than E10.

      As for government “subsidies” TANSTAAFL. (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch). Everything has its cost. A free lunch today will cost you far more in 3 years than if you just paid the cost when it is incurred. Just ask Herz how their subsidized EVs are doing today. Subsidized acquisition merely allows poorer economic decisions to go unpunished today at a far higher punishment in the future.

      • “Cheap mogas is the way to go for many of us. Mogas without alcohol works just fine in most STC eligible aircraft”

        But good luck finding ethanol-free mogas. There is almost none in the northeast. Certainly none that I could fly to and back and have actually gained anything in the process.

        • Ethanol free gasoline distribution does seem spotty. It’s at the QuickTrip by my house (metro Atlanta), and a number of other stations as you get closer to Lake Lanier. I use it in my lawnmower and woodchipper. Price is roughly the price of premium.

  5. So NOT adding the expensive and deadly “Lead” makes the fuel $2 -$4 MORE expensive? Interesting. Seems to me the rest of the gasoline world just uses unleaded fuel in many different flavors yet when you mention “airplane” the price shoots to the moon.

  6. Although it’s still early morning, I got my popcorn at the ready here waiting for some ideologue to tear into how government subsidies for special interests (such as non-commercial general aviation) are an abomination and an absolute waste of taxpayer money. 😛

    • I’m your Huckleberry! But first, are you an ideologue as well, or do you claim to be a pragmatist like Napoleon? Just wondering after that pretext.

      Okay, let’s look at why there is a perceived need for this subsidy. I suspect, it’s ostensibly that they don’t want lead in the air around the airport. Great. How about we then look at the reasons the lead is in the fuel still today? Surely, there might be a solution that does not involve a subsidy. Since our community here is full of insiders, we already know the causes for Avgas still being needed: Government, science, government, and more government. And, for why the market doesn’t provide the alternative: Government, economics, science, and more government.

      Of course, the solution must be more government.

      There’s a lot wrong with the subsidy, but at least in this case there’s some recognition that since government has caused the problem it ought to pay for it. My preference would be to admit the mistakes of the past, and try to resolve them by weeding out the bad regulations and laws that created the problem until we are left with natural issues, and tell the market to deal with those.

      But of course, I’m some sort of idiot dreamer, right?

  7. California deserves to be singled out because it was only California, Oregon, and the New England states that imposed regulations at the state level which required ethanol in every last drop of autogas. The Fedguv didn’t word the regulations in the same way. Therefore in most states, including those considered to be corn states, it’s relatively easy to find straight gasoline. California’s environmentalists are who to look to if you want to point the finger at someone for the current situation. They are the ones that passed the laws imposing ethanol in all gasoline there. Yes the corn states pushed for ethanol, but at the Federal level. California is responsible for the mess they’re in right now. Not the corn states.

    • “…it was only California, Oregon, and the New England states that imposed regulations at the state level which required ethanol in every last drop of autogas. The Fedguv didn’t word the regulations in the same way.”

      Well, technically true, but that leaves out a lot of context. The EPA mandated that cities with high pollution levels had to mix an oxygenate in gasoline to make it burn “cleaner” (more on that later). Years ago that oxygenate was MTBE (Methyl-Tertiary-Butyl-Ether). Unfortunately, MTBE tended to contaminate ground water from leaking tanks so it was banned. That left ETBE (Ethyl-Tertiary-Butyl-Ether) and Ethanol. ETBE works better, produces higher octane, and is more compatible with fuel components, so of course the U.S. used… ethanol.

      In the case of New England, so many cities and counties were part of the Ethanol federal mandate that it made more economic sense to blend all of the gas within a state with ethanol. Otherwise trying to keep track of a hodge-podge of delivery points would further divide the market and end up costing the consumer more (which partly explains why ethanol-free gas often costs more that gasohol. Go figure).

      As for why so much of New England is required to use gasohol? Well, since the prevailing winds come out of the west, a quick glance at a map will show that much of New England is downwind of midwestern power plants. So the gasohol mandate is somewhat akin to buying more mops instead of fixing the leaking toilet.

      And the best (or worst) part is this – oxygenates (like ethanol) don’t make the gasoline burn any cleaner. At least, not anymore. Back in the days of carbureted cars, most fuel systems were designed to burn a little richer than needed for better starting and drivability. So adding some oxygen to the gasoline would tend to make a carbureted car run leaner and thus, cleaner.

      But the last carbureted car sold in the U.S. was the 1992 Subaru Justy. Modern fuel-injected cars all have computer-controlled fuel systems that sense the extra oxygen in the fuel and, get this, add MORE gas to compensate! The computer doesn’t know if the extra oxygen is coming through the air filter or from the fuel tank – it just sets the perfect mixture and the result is very clean emissions. But with gasohol, your fuel mileage is a bit lower.

      So there’s no real physical need for ethanol in gasoline anymore. Politically is a different story. Congress, in their infinite wisdom, mandated that we have to produce billions of gallons of the stuff, regardless of how much is actually needed to be mixed with gasoline. With more fuel-efficient cars and more electric vehicles, gasoline sales have been going down, so there was talk in the past of raising the ethanol content from 10% to 15% just because you have to put it somewhere. However, the Covid shutdown shuttered some ethanol refineries so now there’s a bit more balance at the moment. But so long as Iowa remains the first-in-the-nation primary state, the ethanol mandate won’t go away.

  8. Literally IN the shadow of OSH is one of the largest ethanol producing facilities around. Greta VanSusteren — who grew up in Appleton — did a show about it years ago when she had a program on TV. In WI, the premium fuel does not have ethanol in it yet it is labeled at a higher octane rating … I don’t know how that is? Lead?

    Last week, I took an EAA webinar about installing Rotax engines. Phil Lockwood had a slide showing the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of avgas and mogas made for winter and summer blends. I was aghast at the higher RVP of winter grade mogas. He didn’t say and I don’t know why that’d be but it was noticeably higher than summer blends. Both were higher than avgas. I don’t know how ethanol free mogas would fit into those figures but … I’d be mighty careful LEAVING the stuff in an airplane for very long. On a truck I leave parked for 6 months in FL in summertime, it was fine when I left it and NOT fine when I got back; the EVAP system went bad. Now I know why. The RVP of winter grade mogas was SO high plus being ‘cooked’ by high temps so it went to the only place it could … the carbon canister. It appears the canister went bad due to the RVP of the fuel and my habit of filling the tank. I was later advised to take the fuel cap off of the tank when I’m gone to eliminate the fuel vapor problem.

    I guess my point is that there’s a lot more to these different fuels than i thought. Caveat emptor!

    • Larry, you are correct, there is a lot more to auto and aviation fuels than simply octane rating. And even that is not the same, since auto gas octane is rated on a different (and lower number) test protocol than Avgas. RVP is adjusted from winter to summer to aid in starting cars in cold weather. Some of that adjustment is not as critical as it once was when cars had carburetors instead of fuel injection. However, putting winter grade mogas in your plane could be a nasty surprise on a summer day when you climb to altitude and discover vapor lock. You need to remember that RVP is measured at sea level pressure and a standard temperature (I believe 60 degrees F). As you climb higher, the RVP naturally increases due to the lower atmospheric pressure. Avgas also has higher standards for stability (aging) and better solvent characteristics for the sealants, hoses and gaskets used in aircraft fuel systems. A refinery has multiple choices of hydrocarbons to adjust both the octane rating and RVP. Some of those choices are dictated by the crude supplies they use as well as the processing units they have. So, two companies selling a 91 octane fuel with a 7.5 RVP do not necessarily have the same components in them. Caveat emptor indeed! Unless you want to be your own test pilot, I suggest you experiment with you aviation fuel very carefully.

  9. Avgas has a RVP of 5.5 to 7.5psi. Autogas has a RVP from 7.5 to 10. It used to be higher, but was reduced to a max of 10 in the 1990’s. Maximum RVP in California is 7.5. The reduction to 10 nationally, and to 7.5 in California was intended to cut down on evaporative emissions.

    • I just looked up the slide I snatched off of Phil Lockwoods webinar about the Rotax 9 engines.

      He says that the RVP of 100LL or Swift 94UL must be between 5.5 and 7.1 … we agree.

      He says the RVP of summer blend mogas in FL is 9.0 max at 100 degrees

      He says the RVP of winter blend mogas in FL is 11.5 to 13.5 at 100 degrees. WOW !!

      Once I saw that, I reallized why my parked truck’s EVAP system went bad … it was cooking in the garage all summer. SO … fliers … beware … if you leave winter blend MOGAS in your flying machine (especially low wing airplanes with pumps) vs using it right up … you’re asking for trouble. Airplanes have open vents vs modern vehicles but … I think I’d open the fuel cap and just let it sit on the tank just to be sure. And if you’re gonna fly high … DON’T use MOGAS. MY two cents.

      Is “Petersen” the same as Petersen STC ???

  10. Whatever happened to that company out in Phoenix called Airworthy AutoGas; with an affordable 93UL MoGas, formulated specifically for use in aircraft, without EtOH and with the correct Vapor Pressure, year-round?

    Here is what happened: They were squashed by the City that they were trying to do business with/in; they couldn’t get a single FBO to work with them; and, liability insurance was absurd.

    Is it time for Airworthy AutoGas to make a come-back, but perhaps with a 91UL?

  11. “Therefore in most states, including those considered to be corn states, it’s relatively easy to find straight gasoline”.

    THAT’S TRUE, AND WE PUT IN NO-ALCOHOL AUTO FUEL at our FBO when 80 octane was dropped–over 10 years ago. Our auto fuel not only has no lead and no alcohol, but though it is listed as “96 octane”–the refinery here in Minnesota elected to make it true “100 octane” for liability concerns.

    How has it worked out? WE use it in our training airplanes 90% of the time–but Private Pilots rarely use it–even though it is $1.30 CHEAPER PER GALLON THAN 100LL! We sell only about 10% of the volume of no-ethanol auto fuel than we do 100 octane–DESPITE the fact that MOST of the aircraft COULD USE “AVIATION AUTO FUEL.”

    I believe that is due to the skepticism and confusion with “service station” fuel. The gas stations sell “High test”, “85 octane” and “88 octane” E (for ETHANOL) Fuels–many car drivers don’t know the difference–and most airplane pilots know better than to put ethanol fuel in their airplanes. Some pilots may express concerns about “auto fuel” because of the difference in handling. Our system has “floating suctions” in the tank, so it can’t pump the last 12″ in the tank–no water. It also has a filtration system, and even a “dead-stop” water sensor that shuts off the pump if water is detected.

    We’ve even rebranded our pumps to say “Aviation Auto Fuel”–even that hasn’t helped. What’s needed is to rebrand the fuel and NOT call it “Auto Fuel”–and the confusion and stigma that goes with it.

  12. Swift Fuel 94UL in Florida:

    KAPF – $6.99/gallon
    KSEF – $8.10/gallon
    KDED – $8.25/gallon

    KGIF- MOGAS (don’t know if it has ethanol) – $4.36

    Sorry, but Swift Fuel (and probably G100UL) will never be cheaper than 100LL, at least not for a long time.

  13. Assume Swift is 100LL with lead withheld. Still going to cost more because you just made a boutique fuel. It has to travel by itself and find storage separate. As a product, it is even smaller in volume the relatively minor 100LL product. Where is a petroleum tank farm going to store it, and will the customers take the usual ~ 10,000 gal delivery?

    The high winter RVP is great in the WINTER! It makes for easy starts with the easy to vaporize components. Winter fuel used in the summer? Bad idea. Vapor lock potential and when it warms up, some of the fuel will leave the tank. Lost Btu’s.

    • Just curious, what kind of plane do you fly? If it works for you and your engine/fuel system will tolerate it, great. Sadly, I am not so fortunate. ☹

    • 1. Any Mogas containing alcohol (ethanol), will adversely affect seals and elastomers; and it also affects the fuel’s vapor pressure leading to an increased probability of vapor lock.

      2. The ethanol absorbs water which increases the likelihood of carburetor icing.

      3. An engine will use more fuel as the percentage of added alcohol increases. An approximate figure is that the engine must burn 3% more fuel to give the same power output if the fuel contains 10% ethanol.

      4. Ethanol mixed with water is somewhat corrosive and may attack parts of the fuel system. in long-term storage, ethanol may oxidize with exposure to air. This process produces a mild
      acid solution which can attack fuel system fittings.

      5. Ethanol can be particularly harmful to composite fuel tanks and/or their internal coating
      materials. Degradation of coating material may result in material within the fuel system debonding and potentially blocking the fuel supply.

      6. Long term exposure to ethanol damages some types of plastics (elastomers); therefore, items such as flexible fuel lines are subject to increased deterioration. Some of the elastomers used in old aircraft models and which are otherwise compatible with Avgas may deteriorate on contact with ethanol.



      • Rotax engines are authorized by the manufacturer for up to 10% ethanol. I have two on my AirCam (912ULS). Book minimum octane is 91 AKI (RON +MON/2).

        However, I used 93 octane premium mogas during the winter time to inhibit vapor lock. During the summer months, I use 100LL.

        One time I did have double vapor lock indications. The Dynon showed only about 1 psi fuel pressure on both engines (normally about 4-5 psi). No vibration or cavitation was felt, but turning on both electric fuel boost pumps solved the issue.

        • The other cautions still apply, though. Don’t let it sit: it will separate and you will have two fuels in there instead of one. Watch for water absorption and re-separation. And never, ever let it settle in composite fuel tanks: as the fuel separates, higher-concentration ethanol can dissolve the tank lining.

  14. Congratulations! This aircraft is FAA-APPROVED TO FLY on UL94 Unleaded Avgas!

    This aircraft can use UL94 Unleaded Avgas based upon any of the following criteria:

    UL94 Unleaded Avgas meets or exceeds the FAA’s type-certificated fuel requirements of both this engine and airframe. The TCDS fuel requirement for both engine and airframe states one of the following: Grade UL91, Grade 80, Grade 80/87, or a minimum octane requirement of 80 or lower.
    UL94 Unleaded Avgas complies with the requirements for Grade 80 unleaded avgas (as originally specified in ASTM D910). Grade 80 was last approved as an unleaded grade of avgas in 1995, per D910-95A.
    UL94 Unleaded Avgas also complies with the requirements for Grade UL91 unleaded avgas as specified in ASTM D7547.

  15. FOREVER Avgas STC

    STC Price

    $3.00 – card processing fee
    $0.00 – Standard (USPS – 5-10 Days)


  16. Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a law enacted in 2005, under then President George W. Bush; the nation’s oil refiners are required to mix some 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol into the nation’s gasoline annually. The policy was intended to reduce emissions, support farmers with subsidies in the corn belt and beyond and cut U.S. dependence on energy imports.
    As a result of the mandate, corn cultivation grew 8.7% and expanded into 6.9 million additional acres of land between 2008 and 2016, the study found. That led to widespread changes in land use, including the tilling of cropland that would otherwise have been retired or enrolled in conservation programs and the planting of existing cropland with more corn, the study found.

  17. If there were Swift 94UL at my home airport I would pay more for it just to avoid all the lead fouling I get in my low compression O 235, and yes I aggressively lean on the ground and in flight. I still end up have to dig all the lead out of the plugs every 25 hours and have had numerous flights cut short when a hunk of lead gets caught under the electrode and the engine starts to run rough.

    Personally if my municipality wanted to subsidize a better fuel I would be ecstatic.

  18. How great to see a government entity do more than just try to shut down an airport. They have a problem with lead, they present a solution. Give us 100 more cities/states/feds who identify a problem and solve it. In our lifetime. Bravo, Long Beach.

  19. It must be an election cycle in Long Beach….. The Feds should be doing this nationwide. It’s their agenda, after all.