With matching funds coming in for USDA's blender pump expansion efforts through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership, consumers in 21 states should soon see more options for fueling their vehicles with biofuels.
The funds are expected to result in the addition of nearly 5,000 pumps at more than 1,400 U.S. fueling stations. It also will support storage and related infrastructure that allows for higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, E85, and even intermediate combination blends.
Currently, most consumers have easiest access to typical gas pumps, which deliver about 10% renewable fuel in the mix.
The final announcement comes just six months after USDA announced the availability of $100 million in grants through the BIP. To apply, states and private partners were asked to match the federal funding by a 1:1 ratio.
USDA received applications requesting over $130 million, outpacing the $100 million that is available. With the matching commitments by state and private entities, the BIP is investing a total of $210 million.
"This major investment in renewable energy infrastructure will give Americans more options that not only will suit their pocketbooks, but also will reduce our country's environmental impact and bolster our rural economy," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
"The Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership is one more example of how federal funds can be leveraged by state and private partners to deliver better and farther reaching outcomes for taxpayers. The volume and diverse geographic locations of partners willing to support this infrastructure demonstrate the demand across the country for lower cost, cleaner, American-made fuels. Consumers will begin to see more of these pumps in a matter of months."
The 21 states participating in the BIP include Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Ethanol groups, which praised the initial plan, also praised this final announcement.
"Just six months ago, this was an idea on a piece of paper," said Tom Buis, Growth Energy co-chairman. "Today, we are seeing firsthand the implementation of this program to increase market access for cleaner, homegrown, renewable fuels. The speed with which this program has been implemented clearly demonstrates that USDA and its state and private sector partners can indeed make good things happen."
The announcement also comes as USDA's Office of the Chief Economist releases a comprehensive report on ethanol. The report, titled U.S. Ethanol: An Examination of Policy, Production, Use, Distribution, and Market Interactions, brings clarity to the complex interaction of ethanol production with agricultural markets and government policies.
The corn ethanol industry is the largest biofuel producer in the country, with production increasing from about 1.6 billion gallons in 2000 to just over 14 billion gallons in 2014, stimulating economic activity in rural communities.