Wednesday, February 28, 2024

USDA injects $19 million into biofuels infrastructure

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ALTOONA, Iowa — The United States Department of Agriculture announced Jan. 11 that they are awarding $19 million in grants to U.S. business owners to increase the availability of domestic biofuels in 22 states.
It’s an effort to give Americans cleaner, more affordable fuel options at gas station pumps as part of President Biden’s Bidenomics agenda to lower costs and invest in America.

Casey’s will use a $5 million grant to install ethanol blend fuel dispensers at 111 fueling stations in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. Using these investments, the company aims to increase the amount of biofuels it supplies by 50 million gallons a year.

“We’re happy to see the success that Casey’s has had securing matching funds to expand infrastructure for lower-carbon higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85,” Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “As it nears its fifth year, the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program has helped retailers offer drivers across the country more options for saving money at the pump, with fuel that is better for human health and the environment — not to mention the rural communities where farmers grow the feedstock and biorefineries produce the fuel. Casey’s understands the value of being a leader by embracing an important industry development that sets them apart — while setting an example.”

Blending ethanol into gasoline has helped reduce fuel costs by approximately 25%, contributing to falling gas prices across the country, according to

a 2023 study shared by the USDA

. The average gas price in the U.S. on Feb. 7, 2024, was at $3.14 a gallon and was trending upward, according to AAA.
The USDA is making the awards through the

Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program,

made possible with funding from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

“We applaud the United States Department of Agriculture for supporting increased access to American-made biofuel blends like E15. As corn yields rise and gasoline demand slows over time, it’s important to keep biofuels and American agriculture growing strong,” Doug Berven, executive director of the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association said in a statement. “E15 is a high performance biofuel blend made from Midwest-grown corn that is compatible with nearly every car, truck and SUV on the road today. We’re excited to see Casey’s and other fuel retailers expand access to E15 at more locations so more drivers can enjoy bigger savings at the pump.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement during his visit to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona. Secretary Vilsack was awarded the Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels Award by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association during the Summit.

“President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is giving people in rural areas the historic opportunity to expand clean energy and build an economy that benefits working families,” Vilsack said in a press release. “By increasing the supply of biofuels made here in the United States, we are strengthening our energy independence, lowering costs for American families, creating new streams of income for agricultural producers and bringing good-paying jobs to people in rural communities.”

The full list of states to receive funding includes Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

Since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture has invested more than $96 million nationwide to increase access to biofuels at fueling stations. Iowa has received $11.6 million.

The USDA in June 2023 made $450 million available in Inflation Reduction Act funding through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive to expand the use and availability of higher-blend biofuels. That same month, the Department also announced the first round of Inflation Reduction Act-funded Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive awardees.

The USDA continues to accept applications for funding to expand access to domestic biofuels. These grants will support the infrastructure needed to reduce out-of-pocket costs for transportation fueling and distribution facilities to install and upgrade biofuel-related infrastructure such as pumps, dispensers and storage tanks. There are three quarterly application windows left, and the program ends Sept. 30, 2024. The next application deadline is March 31, 2024.

Kennedy is a reporter for Agweek based out of South Dakota. She grew up on an organic crop farm where her family also raises cattle in eastern South Dakota. She graduated from South Dakota State University in 2023 with a major in agricultural communication and minor in agricultural business. She enjoys connecting with producers and agribusinesses across the region while reporting on all things agriculture.

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