Ethanol Blend Now Commonplace at Gas Stations; Prices Still Rising

Montgomery, Ala. (WSFA) -- More and more these days, the gas you're putting into your car isn't the fuel you're used to. Many companies are blending ethanol into their gasoline in an effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

It's also designed to reduce prices, but is ethanol really worth the effort? And do consumers even have a choice?

Small stickers adhered to pumps are there to alert customers to the ethanol's presence. Many drivers, however, told us they hadn't noticed them.

The new fuel mix showed up first at discount gas stations and now even larger companies like Shell and BP are making the conversion.

Not everybody thinks cutting gas with ethanol is a good idea. According to Triple A, it slightly reduces the power of your engine.

"The alcohol (ethanol) really doesn't give the same detonation as pure gasoline and it burns cooler, so we're getting less gas mileage," said customer Penn Cook.

Ethanol can also do engine damage to older cars built in the 1970's or earlier. But it's considered safe for all other vehicles.

An Exxon station on the Atlanta Highway is one of just a handful of gas stations in Montgomery that still sells the old fashioned kind of fuel -- but not for long.

"We haven't started yet, it's down the line," said manager Narayan Swamy.

Swamy says he'll be forced to convert to ethanol later this month.

"We have to do it because it's a federal law."

In 2007, congress mandated a 6-fold increase in ethanol production in an effort to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, which in turn, was supposed to reduce prices.

But so far, that hasn't happen. Prices continue to rise, despite the addition of ethanol.

The better solution, according to industry analysts, is to manufacture cars that get better gas mileage. That too has been mandated by congress and many manufacturers are already working toward that goal.

As of Monday, the national average for unleaded gas was $4.08 per gallon. In Alabama, it was $3.93, which marked a penny increase over the weekend.

Reporter: Mark Bullock