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USDA plans to double number of U.S. ethanol blender pumps

gas pumps
USDA funding seeks to double number of blender pumps for renewable fuels (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
USDA funding seeks to double number of blender pumps for renewable fuels

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced that the agency will invest up to $100 million in a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership to double the number of renewable fuel blender pumps that can supply consumers with higher ethanol blends, like E15 and E85.

Related: EPA releases 2014-16 RFS volume obligations

The typical gas pump can only deliver fuel containing a maximum of 10% ethanol, USDA explained.

Under the program, USDA will administer competitive grants to match funding for state-led efforts to test and evaluate "innovative and comprehensive approaches" for higher blends. USDA will formally launch the project in a Notice of Solicitation of Applications in June.

"We are fortunate that our farmers are producing record amounts of feedstock for these fuels," Vilsack said in a statement Friday. "However, a combination of factors, including lower commodity prices and reduced demand for feed as the poultry industry recovers from highly pathogenic avian influenza, are creating uncertainty for America's corn and soybean producers.

"With this partnership, USDA is helping to ensure the infrastructure is in place for consumers to access more renewable fuels, expand marketing opportunities for farmers, and grow America's rural economies," he said.

The United States exported more than $2 billion of ethanol last year, making it  the world's largest exporter of ethanol. Additionally, the United States has become a market leader in the export of high-quality distiller's dried grains, a byproduct of ethanol production used as a high-protein feed for livestock and poultry, USDA said.

Industry response
CEO of Growth Energy Tom Buis supported USDA's Friday announcement, noting that the program will build necessary infrastructure for Americans to make a choice for ethanol.

“Today’s announcement by the USDA is a tremendous win for American consumers," Buis said in a statement. "The USDA is helping advance consumer choice and market access for higher blends of … renewable fuels. By helping build out the necessary infrastructure, consumers will have increased choice at the pump."

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Managing Director Lucy Norton also supported the announcement.

"By encouraging investment in the necessary infrastructure, more motorists will be able to take advantage of safe and economical E15 and E85, providing greater competition at the pump and wider fuel choice," she said.

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