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Availability Of Alternative Fuels Limited In Triangle

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GARNER, N.C. — Gas prices are high and for most of drivers, there is no alternative but to take the hit at the pump. However, choice is creeping into the marketplace.

North Carolina is getting flexible with its state-run motor fleet and newly-purchased passenger vehicles will run on an alternative fuel called e-85, as well as gasoline.

e-85 is made from crops, like corn, and is cleaner for the air. It also costs about 16 cents more per gallon.

"It's really only through price rising that we capture everyone's attention," said Anne Tazewell of the Clean Cities Coalition. "What we're all about is introducing fuel diversity," Tazewell said.

Another alternative fuel is B-20, a biodiesel made from a variety of fuels, including vegetable oil.

"It can run on any vehicle without any modification whatsoever," said Kurt Creamer, an energy extension specialist. "E-85, made up of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas, is a flexible fuel."

"The Ford Taurus and larger SUVs are all e-85 capable," Tazewell said.

One of the biggest problems with alternative fuels is finding it.

The BP gas station on Benson Road in Garner offers B-20 for about the same price as regular diesel. Right now, the Garner location is the only place in the Triangle to offer the fuel to regular customers.

An Exxon station on Roxboro Road in Durham is about to do the same.

"Well, we're making baby steps. For the average consumer there isn't much choice," Tazewell said. "As these fuels become more household words, people will see that there is a choice."

The state motor fleet is ready with two e-85 pumps already in service.

The Clean Cities Coalition offers rebates to businesses in the Triangle that want to sell alternative fuels. The state energy office provided a $100,000 grant to offset the higher cost.

N.C. State is working a statewide rebate program.

Hybrids are another alternative to paying higher gas prices. Some of the vehicles get 60 miles to the gallon. In two years, hybrids are expected to make up 10 percent of the mid-size car market.