Saving cash at the pump, or in the long run

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Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - Justin Jones

METROPOLIS, Ill. - The average cost for unleaded gasoline nationwide has risen 12 cents in the last seven days according to AAA. The association said unrest in Egypt, disruptions in domestic production, and increased summer demand will continue driving prices up in the coming weeks.   

Right now, the the average price at the pump for regular is $3.66, but some drivers are filling up for much less. The cheapest gas available is called E85. It's a fuel mix that's 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. It can be hard to find, but they've got it at the CITGO in Metropolis for $2.99. If you compare that to $3.69 for regular, you can see how the savings can add up. But the trouble is, maintaining a flexible fuel car that burns E85 may actually cost you more.

"I get a little over 20 miles to the gallon," said Greg Russell. He owns a V8 truck. At $3.69 a gallon, his gas bill gets pretty pricey. He said, "It's just going crazy." Russell drives a truck that burns E85, so he does have the option to tame his bill. He said he's never bought a drop. "I'm just not comfortable with it," he said.

Though Russell isn't a big fan, sales manager Michael Baker at Linwood Motors said a lot of other people are. "We've definitely noticed people with more interest," he said. With more demand, Baker said they're stocking up on the cars that come with the yellow caps. "Probably over 70 percent of the vehicles we sell are flex fuel vehicles. That number will probably spike up over 90 percent in the next few years," said Baker.

In 2016, new government standards will require cars to make smaller carbon footprints. Baker said, "If you're running the E85, It's made from corn. It's natural material. It burns so much cleaner than anything petroleum." Car Needs owner Chris Carney said cleaner in the air doesn't mean cleaner in the car.  "The fuel on the E85 actually starts breaking down a lot quicker than gasoline, so it has a tendency to turn into water and form rust in there," Carney said.
That means more maintenance as well as less mileage. Carney said, "It's not near as explosive in the combustion chamber, so you don't get as much bang for your buck."
 
The gas and ethanol combination comes out cheaper at the pump, but not necessarily in the long run.

According to new federal government standards, the average fuel economy for cars has to improve by about 10 miles per gallon by 2016. The truck standard has to rise by about five MPG.

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