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$4-a-gallon gas is here, and some folks are okay with that

ST. PETERSBURG — At $4.06 per gallon, Bollinger's Sunoco station has some of the most expensive regular gas in the Tampa Bay area.

By a lot, actually.

Gas at the Tyrone Boulevard station is nearly 27 cents above the bay area average of $3.79 per gallon. It's about that much higher than nearby gas stations, too.

Yet it still has customers. And those customers seem to be happy filling up their tanks. Why?

The station has something very few others offer: ethanol-free gasoline.

Owner Ted Baker, 55, swears by the gas and proudly announces it on the station's marquee: "No ethanol here."

"I just don't like ethanol," he said. "It's not pure gas."

Baker, who has been at the gas station since 1975, said the gasoline costs him more per gallon than ethanol blends, so the price is higher. But he said what drivers put in their tanks is a much higher quality, getting better gas mileage and resulting in heathier engines.

He said he has lost a lot of steady customers because of the high prices, but has maintained strong business.

The gas is exactly what some drivers are looking for.

"I don't care what they put the price tag at, I'm buying ethanol-free," said Tom Owen, 58, of Redington Beach. "I hope they never take it away. I believe in this stuff."

Owen readily ticks off a list of reasons why he pays the higher price. Better gas mileage. Truck runs better. Better for the engine. Cheaper to produce.

He said he puts it in everything from his sailboat engine to his lawn mower.

Anthony Schettino, 34, who runs a lawn and landscaping business, also swears by it. He won't put anything else in his equipment. Although the gas is more expensive, he is saving in repairs.

"I had nothing but problems when I was running ethanol gas," he said.

He sometimes puts the more expensive gas in his truck, but he can't afford the steeper prices.

Ethanol or otherwise, he said increasing gas prices have sliced deeply into his business. His overhead cost has quadrupled because of spiking gas prices.

"You just can't raise the prices," he said. "There's no way I can compensate for what I am paying in gas."

$4-a-gallon gas is here, and some folks are okay with that 04/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2011 10:34pm]
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