The bottom line is that price still counts with the consumer

November 23, 1990|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

Down at Russell and Bush streets, where gas stations are clustered so closely they could share air pumps, the greening of gasoline has been overshadowed by the green of money.

Three oil companies are selling gasolines in Baltimore that are reformulated to reduce pollution. All three -- Shell, Exxon and Amoco -- compete along Russell Street. But for now, customers seem more concerned with costs than environmental impact.

Rosemary McHaul, the Shell dealer, said she noticed an increase in sales of the premium blend when its reformulation was announced this summer. Some customers came in asking for the fuel, which slightly reduces some pollutants.

But when prices of all fuels rocketed this fall, customers headed back to the cheaper blends, she said.

"There is always a falloff in premium when prices go up," McHaul said. Regular unleaded, selling for $1.349 a gallon this week, accounts for about 52 percent of her sales. Before the Iraqi-led price increase, the premium, reformulated blend accounted for about 53 percent of sales, she said. That premium was selling for $1.549 this week.

Out at a pump, Herb Dyer was filling up with regular unleaded. Though he said the reformulated fuels are a good idea, he planned to stick with the lower octane rating his car's manufacturer said was adequate. "I won't pay for more octane," he said.

Across the street, at the Amoco station, Skip Bosley was filling up underneath a green banner that proclaimed Amoco's "Three New Reduced Emissions Gasolines." All of Amoco's blends have been reformulated: Silver lead free, selling for $1.479; lead free premium, $1.559, and lead free, $1.409.

He said he chose the station because he has an Amoco credit card. Although he liked the idea of gas that pollutes less, he is skeptical of the environmental impact. "I would tend to believe it is not true," Bosley said. "Most of what the oil companies say I tend not to believe."

Down the street, Exxon was charging $1.379 for its regular unleaded and $1.479 for its Plus and $1.569 for its Supreme reformulations.

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