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Published: Thursday, 6/8/2006

Kroger gas stations in Ohio to offer ethanol by September

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Sales at the supermarket chain are part of an initiative by GM. Sales at the supermarket chain are part of an initiative by GM.
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The fuel additive ethanol will get a major boost in Ohio this fall when Kroger Co. begins selling it at its gas stations across the state as part of a deal with the nation's largest car maker.

The grocer will introduce E85 - a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline - in Ohio by September as part of an initiative by General Motors Corp. to promote the gasoline alternative.

The supermarket chain began selling E85 at stations in Texas this week, and Ohio will be the second market where Kroger will introduce it, spokesman Meghan Glynn said.

Nine Kroger stores in northwest Ohio sell gasoline, according to the chain's Web site.

But Ms. Glynn, a spokesman in Cincinnati, was unable to say how soon E85 will be introduced here.

Currently, the fuel, which is made from corn, is available at only one station in the area, at a Sterling store on Alexis Road in Toledo.

E85 has gained popularity as a cheaper alternative to gasoline that can help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

Six million of the nation's 231 million vehicles are capable of running on E85, and car makers sell thousands of such vehicles each year.

In 2006, GM alone will sell 400,000 models including the Chevrolet Impala, Monte Carlo, and Tahoe, said Dave Barthmuss, a GM spokesman in Detroit.

"This is part of a GM effort to make E85 available nationwide," he said. The car maker teams up with state governments and various fuel retailers around the nation to promote E85 sales.

Details of the Ohio program aren't yet finalized, Mr. Barthmuss said. GM's role in the program is to carry on marketing campaigns that "drive customers to these pumps."

"We show them they're in a flex-fuel vehicle and where to find it," he said.

Programs vary from area to area.

In Chicago, buyers of vehicles capable of running on E85 received gift cards from GM for $1,000 of the fuel, he said.

Although E85 costs less than gasoline and is more environmentally friendly, it is about 20 percent less efficient.

It is no "silver bullet," but is a "great alternative to gasoline when it makes sense," the GM spokesman said.

Ms. Glynn, the Kroger spokesman, was unable to say how many gas stations the chain operates in Ohio. Nationwide, 500 Kroger stores have gas stations, she said. The chain also operates 700 convenience stores under different names that sell fuel.

Meijer Inc. announced this year it would provide E85 at some of its stores with gas stations in Michigan and Indiana. There was no word on whether such a development would occur at its Ohio stores, however.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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