North Carolina Gets First Station To Sell Only Alternative Fuels

Costs less than regular unleaded, but some say less fuel efficicent.

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) - A car dealer has opened the state's first station to sell only alternative fuels.

The station, owned by Bill Smith, sells two types of ethanol and a biodiesel mixture that can be used by most diesel engines.

''We're much too dependent on foreign oil,'' said Smith, who also owns a Ford dealership in Southern Pines. ''These fuels are certainly not a complete fix. But it's a great band aid for the immediate future.''

The ethanol costs a dime less per gallon Wednesday than regular unleaded gas. Last year, the gap was 25 cents, but ethanol supplies have tightened in recent months, said Ray Thomas, a Shelby-based distributor who supplies Smith's station.

North Carolina governments began experimenting with the use of alternative fuels in 1990. The state's motor fleet now includes more than 5,500 cars and trucks that use ethanol or compressed natural gas.

At least two companies plan to build to start making ethanol at plants in eastern North Carolina by the end of 2007.

Some retailers are leery of alternative fuels, particularly ethanol. Gasohol, an ethanol mix sold after an Arab oil embargo 30 years ago drove up prices, caused problems with cars not built to run on the fuel.

Gary Harris of the N.C. Petroleum Marketers Association also said that ethanol delivers up to 25% fewer miles per gallon.

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