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Ethanol-free gasoline worth price, users say

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By Corinne Kennedy
Saturday, June 14, 2014, 5:55 p.m.
 

Jimmy Kelly of Gibsonia said he started buying ethanol-free EZer0 89 gas for his dirt bike and his all-terrain vehicle as soon as Rudolph Auto Repair in Gibsonia started selling it.

“It doesn't eat away at the engine,” said Kelly, 18. He gestured to his ATV. “It runs a lot better now.”

But ethanol-free gasoline can be difficult to find and can cost 80 cents more per gallon than regular gas.

The gas helps small engines on boats, chain saws, lawn mowers and jet skis run more efficiently, users say.

Shops that do sell it, including Rudolph Auto Repair and Purvis Brothers Inc., draw customers from around the region who seek it out despite the higher price.

The gas sells for $4.59 a gallon at Rudolph, compared with about $3.80 for regular gas, but chief mechanic Chris Rudolph said it saves money in the long run by preventing constant repairs.

“Fixing a carburetor on a small engine can cost $300 to $400 at least,” Rudolph said. “You can avoid all that by using the right type of gasoline.”

J.J. Dulavitch, owner of JJ-Lawn Mower Repair in Brookline, doesn't sell ethanol-free gas but said he thought it would be better for open systems, something that uses a carburetor rather than a fuel-injection system.

“If you can buy ethanol-free gasoline, I would definitely recommend it,” he said.

Ethanol-free gas became difficult to find after passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, a website that tracks fuel prices. The program raised the required levels of ethanol blended into fuel to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

“Most gas stations are being forced to sell only gasoline with ethanol” because it's cheaper, he said.

Gas becomes more expensive each year after May 1, when the Environmental Protection Agency requires gas stations to sell summer blends with a lower Reid Vapor Pressure, a measurement of how easily fuel evaporates at certain temperatures. Those less-volatile gas blends decrease emissions that can lead to ozone pollution.

Allegheny County requires lower RVP levels than Pennsylvania and national standards do, according to the EPA.

Ethanol-free gas is held to the same RVP standards.

“It's a rare blend of a rare blend,” said Mac Purvis, president of Purvis Brothers Inc.

The company started selling ethanol-free blends three or four years ago and supply them to Rudolph Auto Repair and nearby marinas. Purvis said most buyers seek it out, including boaters, landscapers and classic car owners.

“The older something is, the less likely it is to be designed to be used with ethanol,” he said.

Rudolph said he has seen a steady increase in customers buying the fuel since the company started selling it in mid-winter. And because many don't, Rudolph said the gas has been great for his business. The shop sells a couple hundred gallons of ethanol-free gas each week, almost the same amount as regular gasoline.

Corrine Kennedy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7823 or ckennedy@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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