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PITTSBURGH -- After spending more than $150,000 last summer to bring E85 to its stations in western Pennsylvania, Sheetz Inc., operator of c-stores in the state, has yet to see the 85 percent ethanol blend catch on with consumers.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Sheetz stores in Monroeville, Pleasant Hills and Robinson, Pa. transitioned their diesel pumps to the alternative fuel, but more than a year later, the three locations are selling less than half the volume those pumps previously generated when they were diesel, the report stated. Sheetz is supplied with E85 from VeraSun Energy, located in Brookings, S.D.
"There's a low level of interest in E85, a low level of understanding," Louis Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing, said during a forum on the alternative fuel at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. "It will be a gradual learning experience for consumers."
To help generate consumer interest in E85, retailers try to keep its price below gasoline. Sheetz's target price is 20 percent less than gasoline -- currently in the $2.30-a-gallon range, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Other strategies to promote the fuel include discounts, including a promotion earlier this week at the chain's Monroeville station, which sold E85 for $0.85 a gallon, the report stated.
"We will do other stations [adding E85 pumps], but it will be gradual," Sheetz said. "There needs to be more customer awareness. People need to be educated."
Also appearing at the forum were representatives of General Motors Corp., the state Department of Environmental Protection and Steel City Biofuels. The program was hosted by the university's Green Design Institute, the newspaper reported.