With area gas prices well above $3 a gallon after retreating from the $4 barrier, one might think that interest in less expensive E85 fuel would be sky-high.
But although retailers in the Toledo area that offer the fuel report good sales, drivers are not stampeding to those pumps even though ethanol blend is about 50 cents cheaper than regular gasoline.
"We are not seeing an increase in E85 sales," said Amy Barlow, a spokesman for the Kroger Co., which operates four area stations that carry E85 - a blend of 15 percent regular unleaded gasoline and 85 percent ethanol.
"Obviously, customers have to have a vehicle that accepts E85 fuel, so maybe that's a factor. But we have seen no increase in people wanting E85. We've been surprised by that too."
Many vehicles cannot use the higher-ethanol fuel. Those that can have a statement to that effect in the owner manuals.
The fuel, although cheaper, obtains lower miles per gallon than regular gasoline.
The price difference between E85 and regular unleaded is 50 cents.
A check of area gas stations selling E85 found prices ranging from $3.05 to $3.25 a gallon. Those same stations were selling regular unleaded for $3.55 to $3.68. The difference a year or two ago was just 20 to 30 cents a gallon.
Nationally, E85 averages $3.14 a gallon and regular gas $3.77, according to E85Prices.com, a Web site run by Minnesota resident Dan McCullough.
Meijer, which sells E85 at its stores in Sylvania and Bowling Green, has noticed an increase in sales of late as the difference in price reached 50 cents.
"That could be for a number of reasons though, including more E85-capable vehicles now on the road," said store chain spokesman Frank Guglielmi.
Phil Younger, marketing director of Renew E85 LLC, a company that operates 14 gas stations in Wisconsin that carry E85 and regular gas, said that in many parts of the Midwest the price spread has grown as regular gas passed $4.
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