U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Friday while speaking at Commodity Classic that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $100 million in competitive grants for infrastructure projects to facilitate increased sales of higher biofuel blends through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP).
Through this program, transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities will be able to apply for grants to help install, retrofit and/or upgrade fuel storage, dispenser pumps, related equipment and infrastructure to be able to sell ethanol and biodiesel. The department plans to publish application deadlines and other program information in the Federal Register this spring.
The drastic increase in the number of refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) granted by the Environmental Protection Agency over the last three years destroyed roughly 4 billion gal. of biofuel demand and caused a major uproar in farm country. On Oct. 4, 2019, EPA announced a number of steps the Trump Administration would take to repair the damage, including an infrastructure program by USDA.
USDA is exploring options to expand domestic ethanol and biodiesel availability and announced a request for information on opportunities to consider infrastructure projects to facilitate increased sales of higher biofuel blends (E15/B20 or higher).
This effort will build on biofuel infrastructure investments and experience gained through the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP). USDA administered BIP from 2016 to 2019 through state and private partners to expand the availability of E15 and E85 infrastructure to make higher ethanol blends available at retail gas stations around the country.
“Both of these actions underscore USDA is putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to increased biofuels usage. 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,” Perdue said.
Growth Energy chief executive officer Emily Skor said the group is grateful to 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, a 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,” Skor said.
“We are excited to see Secretary Perdue and USDA move expeditiously to implement a key part of President [Donald] Trump’s plan to repair the damage caused by RFS refinery exemptions that was announced last October,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Assn. executive director Monte Shaw said. “This program is going to assist substantially in helping fuel stations and terminals across the country add the necessary infrastructure of offer higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. We look forward to working alongside the Administration to ensure the successful implementation of the program.”
Shaw also said as the biofuel industry plans to work with USDA on infrastructure, it also stands ready to work with EPA to begin building on the President’s earlier decision to allow year-round sales of E15 by initiating a rule-making process to streamline labeling and remove other barriers to the sale of E15. “This action should move in concert with the infrastructure program to maximize the positive impact of President Trump’s commitments,” he said.