U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sec. Sonny Perdue announced yesterday that the USDA has invested $22 million out of the up to $100 million in grants available to increase American ethanol and biodiesel sales.
The announcement came in conjunction with events at fuel retail stations in Minnesota and Iowa, with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and other stakeholders invited to join Perdue.
The funds were made available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) to recipients in 14 states. The initial $22 million in HBIIP investments are projected to increase ethanol demand by nearly 150 million gallons annually.
The Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program helps transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities convert to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment and infrastructure.
“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 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.”
Multiple States Benefit
USDA is funding projects in California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin.
ACE Senior Vice President and Market Development Director Ron Lamberty, a former convenience store owner, operator, and supplier himself, attended the Iowa event. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also attended, and Perdue and Grassley toured ACE plant member Golden Grain Energy in Mason City, Iowa, prior to the announcement at a Casey’s location in Ankeny, Iowa.
“ACE thanks Secretary Perdue for his leadership on HBIIP,” Lamberty said. “We were happy to play a part in helping several marketers work through the application process, including a long-time Nebraska retailer, who applied to add 11 more E15 and flex fuel sites, and to assist San Diego E85 wholesaler Pearson Fuels as they applied for HBIIP funds for 122 California retail E85 locations. We’re pleased both companies were approved to receive HBIIP funding.”
Pearson recently announced its 200th E85 location and sold nearly 35 million gallons of E85 in California last year, Lamberty added. “That’s 29 million gallons of ethanol – 25 million more than if those customers had used E10,” said Lamberty. “Pearson does a great job marketing E85, and if these new locations perform like the others have, that’s 20 to 25 million new gallons of E85 in California. The E85 Pearson sells could use the entire output of a small ethanol plant within 18 months. That’s as much new ethanol volume as a billion gallons of E15.”
ACE Lends a Hand
Greg Jones, Pearson’s director of business development, thanked ACE for its help in navigating the HBIIP application process. “ACE’s video series breaking down the grant application, and Ron Lamberty’s help translating USDA’s HBIIP terminology and rules for us allowed us to submit grant requests for quite a few more locations than we had originally planned,” said Jones.
ACE fielded information requests from fuel marketers from Connecticut to California, introduced some retailers to ethanol supporters with funding for grant writing, and assisted others with the application process.
“We received feedback about the application process from many of the marketers we worked with and look forward to working with USDA on ways to make any future grant programs more navigable for small retailers,” Lamberty said.
Following USDA’s rollout of HBIIP, ACE launched a series of fuel marketer-focused videos produced in coordination with USDA on the flexfuelforward.com website, along with a digital advertising campaign to encourage retailers to apply for a HBIIP grant. ACE has now shifted focus to helping retailers understand they may already have the equipment they need to add E15 by encouraging retailers to use the Flex Check E15 compatibility tool.