At a news conference Thursday in southern Minnesota as well as at another one in central Iowa, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a series of grants as part of the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). These awards will provide retailers with a way to offer more choices to consumers at the pump.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recipients of $22 million worth of HBIIP grants to upgrade fueling infrastructure and make it possible for fuel retailers across 14 states to offer higher blends of biofuels. This is the first round of awards out of the $100 million program. The initial $22 million in HBIIP investments are projected to increase ethanol demand by nearly 150 million gal. annually.
“Investments made through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program are helping rural communities build stronger economies and will give consumers more choices when they fill up at the pump,” Perdue said. “President [Donald] Trump has expanded ethanol use by unleashing year-round E15, and the result is more demand for American farmers and more affordable fuel for American consumers.”
USDA is funding projects in California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin. HBIIP will expand domestic ethanol and biodiesel availability by supporting 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).
Leading industry groups praised the grants and touted the help they provided to the retailers that received the money.
Growth Energy said its unmatched network of both large and small retail partners secured nearly $30 million in grants for over 290 sites selling more than 400 million gal. of gasoline annually. The Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) said it helped successfully helped submit applications that cover more than 200 locations across 21 states that annually sell more than 250 million gal. of gasoline combined. RFA provided services and assistance for $21 million in grant requests, which are now being fulfilled and will be matched with another $31 million in private funding, for a total investment in higher-blend infrastructure of more than $52 million.
“We were pleased to be able to help a large number of retailers who were excited to take part in this program,” RFA director of market development Cassie Mullen said. “With today’s announcement, we’re on track to see more fuel locations with higher ethanol blends soon, supporting rural America’s farmers and ethanol producers. We also want to thank USDA again for launching the HBIIP program and understanding the fundamental link between renewable fuels and the farm economy.”
RFA’s work included outreach to retailers via paid and earned media and educating hundreds of them in a series of webinars. The association also created a password-protected website for sharing documents and other digital tools for them to use in the grant application process. Technical reports were prepared for each company, each 35-50 pages in length, and site-specific environmental reports were submitted covering more than 2,200 pages.
Growth Energy said its pioneering work with Prime the Pump helped make BIP a resounding success, supporting the installation of E15 at retailers large and small in size and diverse in geographic location, including Casey’s, Sheetz, Kwik Trip, Minnoco, Cumberland Farms, Family Express, Kum & Go, Murphy USA, NuVu Fuels, Protec Fuel, Pump & Pantry, Racetrac, Rutters, QuikTrip and United Dairy Farmers. There are now more than 2,240 retail locations offering E15, and in 2020 -- despite COVID and the worst fuel drop in three decades -- retail sites offering E15 have increased 10%.
“Casey’s is rooted in local towns across the Midwest, making farmers and their families part of our community,” Casey’s president and chief executive officer Darren Rebelez said. “This grant will allow us to expand availability of higher ethanol blends to our guests. We appreciate the continued support of Growth Energy and their efforts.”
Drew Brower, vice president of fuel operations for United Dairy Farmers, said, “United Dairy Farmers recognizes there was a segment of the fuels market that we were not serving with our existing store fuel offering: those customers interested in unleaded88/E15 and E85, with the benefits that higher blends offer. As an early adopter, we could benefit by bringing these products to market first. The funding through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program through the USDA allows us to expand our overall footprint and bring higher blends to our customer base. Growth Energy has been a resourceful partner during this process."
Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge criticized the Trump Administration’s ongoing unfulfilled promises and called Perdue’s visits to the nation's Heartland on Thursday just another election ploy. She said biofuel producers have been waiting for infrastructure for a long, long time. “What we’re seeing today is too little and too late,” Judge said.