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Ethanol-free fuel finds niche market in North Hills

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal
Chris Rudolph of Rudolph Auto Repair in Richland.
Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal
Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal
Rudolph Auto Repair in Richland might be the only gas station in north suburban Pittsburgh offering lawnmower-friendly ethanol-free gas, which currently costs $4.59 per gallon.

It costs up to 80 cents more per gallon than other grades of gasoline.

But regular users of ethanol-free EZero 89 gas — at $4.59 per gallon — reportedly say their cars perform better on the hard-to-find fuel.

“We sell more of that — EZero 89 — some days than we do regular, unleaded (gas),” said Chris Rudolph, lead mechanic and manager at Rudolph Auto Repair in Richland.

“I think a lot of people just don't know about it,” Rudolph said. “This is the first summer that we've sold it.

“There's no ethanol — ethyl alcohol — in the gas, so it doesn't dry out the fuel lines and the gaskets in carburetors,” Rudolph said. “It's much better for off-road vehicles, lawn mowers, boats and snowmobiles.

“We probably have 10 to 12 people who get it in their cars,” Rudolph said. “Everybody has said their (cars') performance is much better.

“We had a guy who did all the calculations and said it saves him money to buy the EZero.” Rudolph said.

Rudolph's grandfather — Charles Rudolph — opened Rudolph Auto Repair nearly 60 years ago.

St. Barnabas Health System now operates the station because of the bequest, and all profits go to St. Barnabas Charities Free Care Fund, which last year provided $6 million in free care to needy patients served by the St. Barnabas Health System.

St. Barnabas Health System officials decided to offer ethanol-free gasoline at Rudolph Auto Repair because “we thought there would be a market for it and we were right,” said Robin Taylor, spokeswoman for St. Barnabas Health System. “It's selling extremely well.”

Owners of classic cars and landscapers especially like EZero gas, Rudolph said.

“There's a guy that come in and owns a landscaping company and cuts grass,” Rudolph said. “He said his mowers run so much better (on EZero gas), and that it has cut his mowing time.”

Rudolph doesn't know of any places in north-suburban Pittsburgh where people can buy ethanol-free gas, other than Rudolph Auto Repair and Purvis Brothers in Adams Township, Butler County.

“Essentially, this is the same gas you would have bought five or 10 years ago — before they started pushing ethanol into the gas,” said Mac Purvis, president of Purvis Brothers.

“It's mandated by the government,” Purvis said about the 10 percent level of ethyl alcohol that oil refiners now must put in other gasolines.

“There is more energy content in a gallon of non-ethanol gasoline than gas with ethanol,” Purvis said. “Ethanol itself does not have as much energy as gasoline.”

Ethanol-free gas costs more than other gasoline because consumers must pay the extra cost incurred by oil refiners to produce gasoline lacking ethyl alcohol, Purvis said.

“Most branded stations would not be allowed to sell it because it's not made by Exxon or Sunoco,” Purvis said.

As an independent gas station, Rudolph Auto Repair can offer ethanol-free gasoline purchased through Purvis Brothers from independent oil refiners.

Chris Rudolph said he uses EZero 89 gas in his lawn mowers.

“I don't put it in my car. It's too expensive,” he said. “I have five kids, and we get ‘fuelperks!' at Get-Go.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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