The USDA is currently considering options to expand domestic ethanol and biodiesel availability, and is seeking information on opportunities to consider infrastructure projects that will increase sales of higher biofuels blends – 15% ethanol blends or above.
According to the USDA, this effort will build on existing biofuels infrastructure investments and experience gained through the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), which offered competitive grants to state-led efforts to test and evaluate innovative approaches to marketing higher biofuels blends, including E15 and E85.
Led by senior vice-president and market development director Ron Lamberty, ACE made several recommendations that the USDA should consider in the final HBIIP to expand the geographical availability of higher blends and to encourage more widespread participation by smaller retailers. These included:
- Incentivise the highest number of locations available over the widest geography possible, and provide incentives to wholesale blending facilities because having ‘RINless’ ethanol or E85 available outside of fuel terminals has been the single most important factor in areas where significant volumes of higher ethanol blends are being sold.
- Any equipment used to store, blend and dispense higher blends of ethanol should be eligible under the programme.
- Provide a combination of grants and high percentage direct cost share for the purchase of equipment, retrofitting, enhancements and other expenditures that will encourage retailers to investigate whether they can sell E15 and higher ethanol blends, particularly to pique the interest of ‘mom and pop’ c-stores and assure them they can afford to add E15 and participate in the programme.
- All equipment funded by the programme, whether new or converted, must be compatible with the fuel offered, as verified by an equipment installer licensed by the authority having jurisdiction in the station’s area.
“Following the November USDA meeting, we talked to some of the small retailers and groups who adamantly opposed E15 and didn’t like the first BIP programme to find out what they would like to see in a new programme,” Lamberty said. “As expected, the main objections to adding E15 to their fuel product slate were beliefs E15 isn’t compatible with existing equipment, new infrastructure is too expensive, and only big convenience store chains can afford to offer it.”