The Midwest is Awash in E0 Mogas

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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. 

Reno Video

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.

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Comments (30)

"You'd think with all that E0 around, more aircraft owners would adopt it"

What makes you think that private owners are NOT using it?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 24, 2014 8:45 PM    Report this comment

Old cars and lawn tractors run much better on E0. It's illegal here in Chicagoland so I drive up to Wisconsin to get it. E10 has about 2% fewer BTU/gallon compared to E0.

Posted by: Mark McCormick | August 24, 2014 8:54 PM    Report this comment

We're using E0 in airplanes STC'ed for MoGas at an airport not far from Oshkosh. We have to bring it in in containers, however. We DON'T leave it in the airplanes over the winter, however. $1.50/gal x 8 gph = $12 ... a buck is a buck.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 25, 2014 12:48 AM    Report this comment

I don' t know the economics but I think the wind turbines are attractive and not at all an eyesore.

Posted by: Nathan Vonada | August 25, 2014 7:03 AM    Report this comment

They are bad eye sores.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 25, 2014 8:07 AM    Report this comment

"14 in California, not many in my home state not quite sure why."

CARB is why. CarbRFG gas specifies certain levels of oxygenate in so-called "California gas." It applies to most of the state, but some area are exempt, mostly in NorCal. Ethanol is the oxygenate of choice so E0 is scare in California.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 25, 2014 8:44 AM    Report this comment

There is some kind of regulation (not sure which arm of the gov't) that prohibits E0 being sold in major metropolitan areas. In those areas, you have to get maybe 60-70 miles out of the city to find it. I know load up on it to run their lawn equipment, it doesn't break down those diaphragm carburetors as quickly as E10 does.

Posted by: A Richie | August 25, 2014 11:06 AM    Report this comment

Sorry, should be "people that load up on it"...

Posted by: A Richie | August 25, 2014 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Posted by: Scott Blixt | August 25, 2014 11:48 AM    Report this comment

We've used and sold 91 octane auto fuel from the first days it was legal at my airport at Albert Lea, MN. (KAEL). No problem getting it--it is refined at the Koch refinery near St. Paul.

While it is available from other sources, I buy the Koch stuff because it comes with a pedigree. It has a breakdown of the fuel--octane (always 91 or more--often 93), Reid Vapor Pressure, etc. We buy only summer formulation for vapor lock protection--but we have no problems with the fuel going bad in the underground storage. The fuel is handled by the very same dedicated trucks that deliver avgas--so they know how to handle it--no mixing with diesel fuel or home heating oil. Unlike run-of-the-mill auto gas that comes up the pipeline, there is no "interface" fuel--fuel that is mixed or tainted when it follows another fuel. There is a spectrometric analysis report with every load.

In all of these years--high wing and low wing airplanes--we have never had an issue. As Paul mentioned, however--there is sometimes a reluctance to use it--even though many of the airplanes we service have the STC stickers. Pilots just seem reluctant to use it--despite a price delta of $1.

Perhaps EAA and Peterson need a new PR program telling pilots that properly handled, auto fuel is safe and cheaper. After all, these owners bought the STCs once--but don't use them.

I know that in talking to hundreds of pilots that one of the issues is the persistent ODER of "car gas" compared to 100 octane. Since the odor is added at the end of the refining process, I would think that could be dealt with--removing a big objection. If auto-based fuel is to be in our future, that issue needs to be handled.

Posted by: jim hanson | August 25, 2014 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Cary, I live in the Palm Springs CA area and there are more than 3,200 wind "mills" where before it was virginal countryside. Thise things are beastly and after a while they get beastlier. The locality does not benefit by their technology but Las Vegas NV does so much controversy is in the making.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 25, 2014 1:33 PM    Report this comment

Jim, if you buy summer formulation, does that mean you don't buy during the winter? Just get through the winter on what you got? Of course, in storage, the RVP changes as the components evaporate. That's true of avgas, too.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 25, 2014 1:54 PM    Report this comment

We had a mogas tank across the field at Sanford, Maine (KSFM) for several years, and there were a few takers. Recently they moved it adjacent to the 100LL and Jet A farm, handy to the FBO, so now we'll see how it sells. I continue to think of excuses to not use it, but who knows? Right now my line is, the spillover stains the wings.

I will certainly use mogas before I have anything kind to say about wind farms, which are a blight on the landscape, a source of insomnia to anyone who lives within earshot, and worst of all, reliant on subsidies to justify the cost of the energy they produce.

Posted by: Jerry Fraser | August 25, 2014 3:01 PM    Report this comment

I just want to know why people along the Missippi and near its mouth have not sued everyone involved in ethanol out of business. The run off from the corn fields has played hell on their income, property and lifestyle.

Posted by: Eric Warren | August 25, 2014 5:24 PM    Report this comment

Our local Marathon gas station started carrying E0 mogas this spring. We live near a large body of water known as Lake Michigan so this makes sense. Boaters who know would much rather use E0 gas. I started using E0 in my GT 500 which as a Rotax 618. I don't know how Marathon is blending the E0 gas but my engine does not run well with E0 gas and every time I sump the tanks I'm getting water or something in the fuel tester. Also, the fuel is cloudy. I went back to BP premium which has ethanol, and the engine is running better. Nothing in the tester either. What's going on? Is the E0 gas so little used due to the higher price that it is sitting in the tank and getting old? Is the formula not as good? Am I getting water in the tanks that is being absorbed by the ethanol and I'm not seeing it? I don't know.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | August 25, 2014 6:54 PM    Report this comment

Dana, are you testing for ethanol in the E0? Good idea to do that. The fuel is supposed to be an ASTM finished spec mogas.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 25, 2014 7:07 PM    Report this comment

After a while, you really get sick of looking at the damn things."

I've felt that way about oil refineries, derricks, and chemical plants all my life.

I'll give Rafael a point though, driving past Indio on I-10 can take me back to some dizzying times in the 60's. Still, there is no disgusting stink or noise coming from any of them. That's sweet.

Posted by: David Miller | August 26, 2014 1:18 AM    Report this comment

Getting back on E0 fuel, what is the consensus on demand, supply, price and availability by 2020 and 2030? Where is this thing going?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 26, 2014 6:46 AM    Report this comment

"I continue to think of excuses to not use [mogas], but who knows? Right now my line is, the spillover stains the wings."

Of course, 100LL's blue dye is also quite effective at staining the wings and anything else it sits on for some time.

My only concern with using mogas in my plane has to do with cylinder head temperatures. For some reason, cylinders 3 & 4 like to run abnormally high, and so far none of the usual culprits (mag timing, baffles, cylinder fins, etc) have been found as the cause. If not for that and the concern that the lower-than-100 octane might make the situation worse (it's manageable right now), I'd use E0 if it was readily available in my area.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | August 26, 2014 8:00 AM    Report this comment


The formulation for mogas is subject to the mood of the EPA. We went from leaded to low-lead, to no-lead, to MTBE-added, to E-5, to E-10, and now in some places, E-15. God only knows what the future holds - there's no reason at all to think that there's going to be any predictability or reliability to what the EPA does "for our own good." I have no reason to have any faith that the FAA's unleaded avgas initiative will succeed (by our standards; not theirs). Consequently, my own answer to your query, "where is this thing going?" is: "kerosene." I've pretty much decided that my next plane ( ? ) will burn Jet-A.


Posted by: Tom Yarsley | August 26, 2014 8:03 AM    Report this comment

"Kerosene", ahh, the Bertorelli prediction.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 26, 2014 12:17 PM    Report this comment

I live in the midwest and regularly burn Mogas in my airplane. I can get it on an airport about 15 mins or so from where I'm based. I usually buy it on the airport--when I approached the management of my airport about self fueling they wanted a $1000 non refundable permit fee, a $5,000,000 insurance policy, and periodic lab test reports of any fuel that I used...which seemed a little excessive for the privilege of carrying a 5 gallon can of gas onto the airport.

Seeing as the price delta between 100LL at my based airport and mogas 25 nm away is on the order of $3 /gal I burn mogas most of the time.

In the winter when the airplane doesn't fly as much I switch to 100LL. Anecdotal evidence suggest that the engine runs better in cold weather on 100LL and I'm also more comfortable leaving the airplane unflown for longer periods of time with 100LL in the tanks. Most of the rational behind that is feeling--I don't have any data to back it up.

Other than the smell and the color, I've seen no operational difference between 100LL and 87 octane E0 mogas.


Posted by: Colin Reed | August 26, 2014 12:20 PM    Report this comment

"I've seen no operational difference between 100LL and 87 octane E0 mogas."

87 octane, eh? I just assumed everyone burning mogas in their planes were using 93 octane. I'm curious now, what kind of plane are you flying, Colin?

Posted by: Gary Baluha | August 26, 2014 12:55 PM    Report this comment

"Kerosene", ahh, the Bertorelli prediction."

Hitting the crack pipe again, I see. ;)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 26, 2014 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Flying a Cessna 140...with a C-85.

Posted by: Colin Reed | August 26, 2014 3:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul, sometimes the disorder of the factors changes the product. What we have here is an unstable scenario where the players are pulling in different directions. Sort of like GA is being executed by quartering.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 26, 2014 6:31 PM    Report this comment

I'm an A&P IA - have burned mogas for 1600 hours in my personal 172. Honestly, I can tell very little difference between mogas and 100LL other than the exhaust stacks turn black on mogas and white on 100LL. I still occasionally have someone tell me how I'm going to trash my engine running mogas. Considering all 6 cylinders on my O-300 at 1000 hours SMOH are still 79/80 (or better)! I'm not worried about it. That said, if I'm on a trip, it's got to be a big savings to go out of the way to find mogas, otherwise the dollars and cents just doesn't add up.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | August 26, 2014 9:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul, welcome to our world and thank you for the support of mogas, the lead-free affordable alternative with a 30+ year record of impeccable safety and affordability. The primary reason more pilots do not use it is its lack of supply at airports, due to ignorance of people who run airports and FBOs, and aggressive action by Avgas producers to keep it away and maintain profit margins of over $1, as your documented in your Kitplanes articles on the subject last year. The second reason we do not see more of it is the utter confusion caused by our so-called leaders of the aviation alphabets in their opposition to mogas, and aviation leading journalists who for years have written complete nonsense about mogas. With all respect, it took you quite a few years to get the facts straight, but we are glad you at least had the honesty to do so. If the EAA and the AOPA put as much effort into promoting mogas for all piston pilots as they do for the minority of pilots who need some relief from the perennial flight medical issue, we'd have mogas and its lower costs at many airports. I expect zero help from the EAA - an organization STILL without a president since Hightower was dismissed.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | August 28, 2014 7:00 AM    Report this comment

The web site is maintained by pilot/homebuilder Dean Billing and is the most accurate listing of airports with mogas. Dean contacts each airport regularly to assure this, and makes nothing for all his effort. The FAA's database, used by web sites such as Airnav, is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to mogas listings. As far as a PR campaign is concerned, Todd Petersen of Petersen Aviation, the world's leading authority on mogas, has been doing this for decades. A few of us created and ran the Aviation Fuel Club for three years for the same reason. Our GAfuels blog at GANews has dozens of articles on the subject. In the end, most of this information fell on the deaf ears of the aviation alphabet leaders, airport and FBO managers and aviation journalists. Ignorance and laziness in these groups means we are stuck with high-priced Avgas although well over 80% of all piston engine aircraft could use cheap mogas today with no modification other than a simple Petersen mogas STC. Those of us who have advocated loudest for it earned nothing for our efforts other than the derision of those who oppose it. Frankly I think the only change will come when dozens more airports and aviation businesses shut down over lack of flight activity due to the high cost of Avgas. Just as with children, many adults won't change or think until they fall on their faces.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | August 28, 2014 7:19 AM    Report this comment

Use mo gas, C-150, at annual FBO asked if I had cleaned oil screen as he had never seen such a clean screen, nope, just don't have carbon problems. Black exhaust pipe? take a look at ALL the new vehicles on interstate highways, ALL have black pipes, so is the petroleum co.s blending off heavy end low dollar products into the fuel stream???? You are also really wrong on the ethanol issue, renewable energy, guess you like our "friends" in middle east. Maybe you can explain your views at your local military cemetery?? The ethanol industry has saved the US economy over .90 per refined gallon of gasoline. Yep a real boondoggle, BTW corn prices have dropped from 8.00$ to 3.25$, has your grocery bill dropped, if not why not???? Eye sore wind tower? Not when compared to a flag draped casket. Regards.

Posted by: John NauerthIII | August 29, 2014 8:46 AM    Report this comment

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