Alternative Fuel Station May Be Future

By TIM MOLLOY
The Associated Press
Sunday, June 11, 2006; 6:06 PM

SAN DIEGO -- If the United States is going to end its addiction to oil, the fuel station of the future might look like Pearson Ford Fuel Depot.

Along with gasoline and diesel, the one-of-a-kind station _ part of a dealership near busy Interstate 15 _ offers a full range of clean-burning alternative fuels from ethanol to propane to BioWillie, a brand of biodiesel made from soybeans and promoted by country music legend Willie Nelson.

The station isn't profitable yet. But co-owner Mike Lewis said that could change if oil prices force consumers to seriously consider other fuels _ especially in San Diego, which regularly pays among the nation's highest gas prices.

"If you could make it profitable, you could do a whole lot more to preserve the environment than all the mandates in the world," Lewis said.

At first glance, the facility looks like any other gas station _ except there are pumps labeled "E85" and "compressed natural gas" along with recharging stations for people with electric cars.

The station is the only one in the country that sells such a wide range of fuels. And it's the only facility on the West Coast where private citizens can buy E85, a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can be used in a number of models that already roll from American assembly lines.

Motorists who filled up recently had a number of reasons for using the alt-fuel oasis: helping the environment, keeping their money in the United States and just seeing how their vehicle ran on a different fuel.

Retiree Karl Evans wheeled in and spent $169.96 for 50 gallons of "BioWillie" to run a tractor he uses to clear his land. He hauled the fuel back home in a pickup truck rigged to run on propane.

Evans said he doesn't like to buy gasoline.

"You're sending the money out of the country, that's for sure," he said.

High gas prices coupled with President Bush's call for Americans to reduce their dependence on foreign oil are drawing more attention to alternative fuels that can be produced domestically, sold cheaper than oil and generate lower amounts of greenhouse gases.

One of the most promising is E85, known for getting fewer miles to the gallon but higher octane, resulting in more horsepower.


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