On Friday, the price for a gallon of regular gas at Hake's was 4.15 9/10.
Most everywhere else, it was 3.99 9/10.
There's a reason for that.
Hake's sells what Randy Hake calls "real gas" -- ethanol-free gas. His is the only gas station in York County selling gasoline that isn't cut with alcohol -- a claim backed up by two websites that track such things and by a local energy company manager.
"We pay 20 cents a gallon more for our gas than the other guys," he said. "There's only one supplier of non-ethanol gas in the state."
It is a complicated issue. The federal government, for years, has mandated using a certain percentage of renewable energy sources. Major gasoline distributors have found that adding 10 percent ethanol, made from corn, to gas helps reach that goal.
And for gasoline distributors and retailers, it also reduces the cost.
But Hake isn't buying it. He's not in favor of it. For one thing, he said, demand for more corn to make ethanol drives up corn prices, which drives up food prices. For another, he doesn't like the fact that the government has to subsidize the manufacture of ethanol to keep the price affordable.
"Corn is in everything," he said. "We should put in our stomachs or the stomachs of our cattle and keep it out of our gas tanks."
He also said ethanol degrades some engine components and reduces fuel efficiency. That last claim is supported by some studies, including one done by Consumer Reports, that say using 10-percent ethanol gasoline reduces mileage by anywhere from 3 to 10 percent.
In tests done with 15-percent ethanol in a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, the magazine reported, fuel economy decreased from 21 to 15 mpg in highway driving and from 9 to 7 mpg in stop-and-go city conditions.
Others say that is offset by the reduced cost of ethanol. Using it reduces the price of gas because it is cheaper than petroleum, said Bob Astor, wholesale fuel business manager at Shipley Energy in York. He said since ethanol has a higher octane rating than gasoline, gas companies can blend it with lower-octane fuel and still meet the requirements set by auto manufacturers. Lower octane gas is cheaper to produce, and adding lower-cost ethanol keeps the price down, he said.
And that's why non-ethanol gas is more expensive.
Hake said he has customers who come from all over to buy non-ethanol gas. He said he talked to one customer who drove 100 miles to get to his store to buy what's referred to as "pure gas." He said he also gets farmers who buy in quantity, and has received an inquiry from a man in Williamsport who wanted to have 300 gallons delivered. He had to turn that down as he doesn't have the means to make such a delivery.
So far, he said, nobody has come in complaining about the price. "They're coming here for that product."
And that's a key, Astor said. "If you're the only guy out there with it, you really have to market it to the right people or you'll fall behind in the marketplace," he said.
Hake believes he has found his market.
"We decided we're going to stick with it," he said.
How much for regular unleaded?
To look up gas prices on a map or by zip code, visit inyork.com/gasprices.
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