‘Real gas’ fading away as stations switch to ethanol

Prab Maan, the owner of J.P. Gas & Mart in Schenectady, said he’s been able to attract customers to
Anthony Parravani of Rotterdam, fills up with ethanol-free gas at JP Gas and Mart at the intersection of Altamont and California avenues in Schenectady Thursday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Anthony Parravani of Rotterdam, fills up with ethanol-free gas at JP Gas and Mart at the intersection of Altamont and California avenues in Schenectady Thursday.

Prab Maan, the owner of J.P. Gas & Mart in Schenectady, said he’s been able to attract customers to his business by selling gasoline that is more expensive than the competition.

“Customers are very happy. They are very pleased. We get customers from like Troy, Albany. We get a lot of good comments,” Maan said.

Regular unleaded gasoline at J.P. Gas & Mart is a little more expensive, $4.21 a gallon, because it is not blended with 9.5 percent ethanol, the E10 blend sold by most gasoline retailers in the Capital Region.

Maan said he has made the choice to be one of the last gas stations in the region to sell “real gas” because his customers prefer it.

“It gives you good mileage. It runs better in the cars. It’s a better product,” Maan said.

Ethanol made in the United States is derived from corn alcohol and contains less energy than straight gasoline. Use of ethanol will reduce gas mileage, and because it burns at a higher temperature, it will heat up engines more. Experts dispute how much mileage is lost, although it’s generally considered to be about 2 percent.

Ethanol distribution in the Capital Region began to spike last year after Houston-based ethanol trader BioUrja Trading purchased the former Cibro Petroleum Products Albany terminal and renamed the terminal Logibio Albany Terminal and enhanced its ethanol operation.

With easy access to ethanol from Logibio, many of the gasoline terminals at the port of Albany began mixing E10. Since then, the federal government has mandated an increase in the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline sold throughout the nation, and federal tax credits for gasoline distributors and retailers have helped to encourage almost all of the gasoline terminals at the port to switch to blending E10.

Louis Polsinello III, one of the owners of Rensselaer-based Polsinello Fuels, said the only terminal at the port of Albany where distributors can still buy “straight gas” is the Citgo Petroleum Corp. terminal on the Rensselaer side of the port.

“There’s a tax credit benefit for the distributor and the retail location for selling the ethanol. The terminals are taking advantage of it. That’s really the only benefit, ethanol itself has really been right in line [in cost] with regular gasoline,” Polsinello said.

Polsinello Fuels distributes unblended regular gasoline to about 50 stations in the region, most of them Citgo stations along with some Gulf and some unbranded independents, Polisinello said. He said most Citgo stations still sell straight gas but some may be buying “splash blended” E10 gasoline from distributors that mix ethanol into gasoline in distribution trucks.

But soon they will all sell E10.

“Citgo is [changing to E10 blend] as of next week. It’s a shame too, because I think the end customers are starting to see no end benefit usagewise for the cars. It’s kind of a shame because people are realizing now that the straight gasoline might not have been a bad deal for them as a consumer,” Polsinello said.

Donald Greco Sr., the manager of Fairway Oil in Fonda, said his business does not sell E10 blend gasoline because it’s still able to get unblended gas from a distributor in Utica. He said a lot of his customers buy gas from him for their lawn mowers and other small engine machines because they are afraid E10 will overheat their motors.

“I also own a go-cart track and I’m scared to use any gas with ethanol because [go-carts have] small engines,” Greco said. “People are also complaining that when they do use the ethanol-blended gas they don’t get as good mileage.”

Greco said he hopes his business will continue to be able to buy gasoline not blended to the E10 level.

Maan said he has another distributor near Rochester that he has been able to get straight gasoline from, but he isn’t optimistic he’ll be able to continue to do so for long because the tax credits are too enticing for distributors and retailers to turn down. He said he’s having his tanks cleaned to prepare them to pump E10.

“It’s the end of the story. Everybody around here is going to have E10 pretty soon,” he said.

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