Handful of stations fuel Ethanol-free niche

WAITSFIELD, Vt. –

It’s a sign you’ll find in only a handful of locations around Vermont — pure gasoline for sale.

“The ethanol-free gas is a better product than what’s out on the market today,” said Troy Kingsbury, who owns the Village Grocery in Waitsfield, one of few places in the state to offer ethanol-free premium gasoline. “Having that non-ethanol fuel kind of extends our reach to customers that we wouldn’t typically see,” he said.

Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard law in 2007. The legislation mandated that major oil companies mix renewable ethanol into the gas supply — in part to reduce dependence on foreign oil.  Since then, pure gasoline has all but disappeared from major branded gas stations. These locations are contracted into certain supplies of fuel. Independent suppliers like Kingsbury can shed the restrictions facing major oil companies.

“As an independent gas station, where we own our own tanks and pumps and everything else, we are able through the Champlain Oil Company to take advantage of the loopholes, so that we are able to offer the non-ethanol fuel to all customers,” Kingsbury said.

Champlain Oil imports the 91 octane ethanol-free gasoline from Canada and it’s only available to them during the summer. “That product qualifies during certain months of the year from May to September as a product that the U.S. will allow to be imported,” said Champlain Oil’s Tony Cairns.

Pure gasoline has a slightly-higher energy content than the ethanol mix. It typically runs better in smaller, older engines not designed for mixed fuel. There is a large demand among boaters. “A lot of the marinas sell it and we have certain locations that sell it for people that have outboards and want to fill up their own tanks and weed wackers and you know, equipment that’s used around the house,” Cairns said.

“I use it for lawn mowers, chainsaws — stuff like that,” said Nick Morehouse, a Village Grocery customer. “The other stuff just gunks up your carburetor pretty bad.”

Kingsbury is also a race car driver at Thunder Road and says he’ll only use pure gasoline. A win at the track on Sunday night has other drivers asking where they can get it. “They’re starting to ask me if I can bring a five gallon can of that non-ethanol fuel, so there might be a little surcharge,” Kingsbury said with a laugh.

The ethanol-free gas is in high demand. Kingsbury says he usually sells at least 500 gallons of it a day during the summer. On a good day, he’ll sell over a thousand.

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