In an attempt to combat harmful aircraft emissions in the city’s airspace, the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday will consider funding $200,000 in subsidies to bring down the price of unleaded fuel at Long Beach Airport.
Despite leaded gas for cars being banned in 1996, small aircraft across the country continue to spew out the metallic toxin that is known to cause severe health issues, especially in children. In August, the city announced an unleaded aviation fuel, or avgas, was available at LGB, but records show that in the months since, few if any aircraft operators are buying it.
According to city staff, the price difference between leaded and unleaded aviation gas is stymying sales. The airport’s leading fuel supplier and the only one to provide unleaded gas, Signature Aviation, sells unleaded fuel for $11.39 per gallon compared to $7.59 per gallon for leaded.
If approved, the $200,000 would be used to offset the price difference “to minimize the cost to consumers associated with the transition to unleaded avgas,” according to a staff report.
It’s unclear how long the subsidy will last. That amount of money proposed would cover fewer than 53,000 gallons of unleaded fuel being sold at the leaded price. Records show Signature sold 200,000 gallons of leaded fuel in the span of just four months.
Even with a subsidy, the issue of lead emissions will not be solved. The current unleaded option is not a high enough octane for roughly 30% of small aircraft in Long Beach. Those craft will still need to use leaded gas.
A high-octane aviation gas suitable for all small aircraft is in development but not yet available to consumers. Commercial jets already use unleaded fuel.
The Federal Aviation Administration has partnered with the aviation community with a goal of eliminating all lead emissions no later than 2030. The partnership created the EAGLE initiative: Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions.
In a November letter, however, councilmembers Cindy Allen, Megan Kerr and Roberto Uranga said the 2030 timeline is not good enough. “With the health and safety of our citizens on the line, this is simply not soon enough,” they wrote.
Curt Castagna, president of the Long Beach Airport Association as well as president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association and co-chair of EAGLE, has voiced support for removing lead, saying he and the rest of the aviation community fully support the transition away from leaded fuel “safely and such that it protects the national airspace system.”
“All of the aviation trade associations align on the need to eliminate lead from fuel, and have been proactive in studying the many industry pillar complexities to secure a replacement fuel,” Castagna said in an email to the Business Journal. “While best mitigating environmental impacts now, and also recognizing the need to support the nation’s 220,000 piston aircraft fleet that move goods, people and provide workforce training.”
Castagna praised city leaders for stepping in with various programs to incentivize the transition to unleaded avgas, including the proposed subsidy.
The City Council is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23 At Long Beach City College’s Liberal Arts Campus, 4901 E. Carson St., Building T, Room 1100. You can view the agenda here.