USDA announces $100 million for higher biofuel blends infrastructure

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the provision of $100 million (€90.2 million) for infrastructure projects to encourage increased sales of higher biofuel blends.

The funding, which will be awarded through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), was announced by US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Higher biofuel blends include ethanol blends of 15% or higher, and biodiesel blends of 20% and above.

Under the programme, transportation fuelling and biodiesel distribution facilities will be able to apply for grants to help install, retrofit and upgrade fuel storage, dispenser pumps, related equipment and infrastructure to sell ethanol and biodiesel.

In a memo, Perdue also directed the USDA to acquire alternative fuelled vehicles when replacing conventionally fuelled vehicles; the USDA owns and operates one of the largest civilian fleets in the Federal Government, with the move to fleet that can operate on E85 or biodiesel expected to increase efficiencies and performance.

“Both of these actions underscore USDA is putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to increased biofuels usage,” commented Perdue. “Expanding nationwide infrastructure that offers biofuels and increasing the number of biofuel capable vehicles in our fleet will increase the use of environmentally friendly fuel with decreased emissions, driving demand for our farmers and improving the air we breathe.

“President Trump is fighting for our corn and soybean growers and biofuel producers by finalising year-round E15, ensuring that more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol and 2.43 billion gallons of biodiesel enters the market in 2020, and opening up new markets abroad. USDA will continue to do its part to encourage the use of homegrown energy.”

The funding has been welcomed by the US ethanol and biodiesel industry, with associations issuing statements in support of the news from the USDA.

Growth Energy’s CEO Emily Skor said: “We are grateful for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue for this commitment to expanding infrastructure and access to higher blends of biofuels. Through the original Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership grants and private fundraising, Growth Energy and Prime the Pump have worked with 14 of the largest retailers to install more than 2,000 retail locations across the nation, expanding consumer access to Unleaded 88, fuel blended with 15% ethanol. Secretary Perdue’s announcement today helps propel higher biofuel blends into the next decade, and Prime the Pump’s retail partners are ready to embrace this new wave of growth.”

Kurt Kovarik, vice-president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), added: "NBB's members appreciate Secretary Perdue's strong support for soybean growers and biodiesel producers and USDA's leadership in driving demand for higher blends of biodiesel and renewable diesel. The grant programme that USDA is announcing will expand consumers' access to cleaner, better transportation and heating fuels, such as biodiesel and renewable diesel. USDA's fleet programme can add significant market pull for those biofuels simply by utilising available data on where to fill up."

According to the NBB, the USDA owns 3,700 diesel fuelled vehicles, however currently its biofuel purchases are less than 4% of its annual fuel use. The agency expects to increase its purchase of biodiesel and renewable diesel blends by up to three million gallons.

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