Grant will increase access to ethanol blends

Vilsack, Branstad announce $2.49 million for pump, tank installations

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ALTOONA — Iowa will begin to distribute $2.49 million to assist in the installation of new blender pumps and eight underground storage tanks that will be used to distribute higher blends of biofuels across the state.

The grant money is part of a $210 million investment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and 21 states through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership, or BIP, to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply renewable fuels to motorists.

The investment in infrastructure will give American motorists more options “that not only will suit their pocketbooks but also will reduce our country’s environmental impact and bolster our rural economy,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and for Iowa governor.

Consumers should begin to see more of these pumps in a matter of months, he said.

Vilsack spoke at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s 10th annual meeting in Altoona, where Gov. Terry Branstad announced Iowa’s participation in the program.

Vilsack called the program an example of how federal funds can be leveraged by state and private partners to deliver better 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,” Vilsack said.

“It means good jobs, better income for farmers and reducing our dependency on foreign oil and giving consumers more choice at the pump in order to have a reliable, low-cost, renewable source of energy,” Branstad said.

Through the program, the USDA will provide $100 million that states and private partners will match dollar for dollar, Vilsack explained.

USDA received applications requesting more than $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.

The goal is to substantially increase consumer access to higher ethanol blends such as E85, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said. Most ethanol sold now is E10 or 10 percent ethanol.

The funds will help 107 marketers of retail fuel sites convert their equipment to pumps that can blend fuel, Naig explained.

In the past 10 years, fuel marketers have applied for more than $21 million in state cost-share to increase the availability of ethanol and biodiesel at about 500 sites.

Also on Tuesday, Iowa U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack, David Young and Steve King said they have been joined by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst as well as Rep. Rod Blum to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to propose 2017 ethanol and 2018 biodiesel Renewable Fuel Standard’s renewable volume obligations consistent with enacted law.

“Our agricultural base in Iowa, serving as feedstock for ethanol and biodiesel production, has near record supplies of excess corn,” they wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “In addition, low oil prices spurred surging fuel demand and large retailers of gasoline are embracing higher ethanol blends.

“Furthermore, the United States is importing record amounts of foreign biodiesel from countries like Argentina and Canada, despite growing domestic capacity.”

They called on the EPA to increase the 2017 level for conventional biofuels to 15 billion gallons and set an aggressive biomass-based diesel level for 2018.

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