Vilsack announces infrastructure grants to 21 states in Florida

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 28, 2015

A Citgo station in Kissimmee, Florida, served as the stage for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of the specific grants going to 21 states, distributing a total of $100 million in the Biofuels Infrastructure Program. Adding the matching commitments by state and private entities, the program is investing a total of $210 million to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply renewable fuels. An earlier announcement named the 21 states. In Florida’s ceremony, Vilsack announced the dollar awards to each state.  USDA anticipates 1,486 stations will install 4,880 pumps and 515 tanks as part of the infrastructure partnership.

"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," Vilsack said in the event at Mid-State Energy’s Citgo station near Orlando, the first to offer E85 and E15 in the area. "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."

Kissimmee mayor Jim Swan, Tom Buis, Growth Energy co-chair, and Richard Childress Racing's American Ethanol racecar were also on hand for the event, along with Protec Fuels executives.  Protec Fuels, based in Boca Raton, Florida, is partnering with Mid-State and multiple other retailers to bring E85 and E15 to consumers.  "We are honored to host Secretary Vilsack and the USDA in making this national announcement because of their commitment to supporting the U.S. economy through ethanol blends," said Steve Walk, Protec Fuel's vice president of development.

Growth Energy’s Buis praised Vilsack as a friend of the renewable fuels industry. “Just six months ago, this was an idea on a piece of paper. 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.”

Others in the ethanol industry hailed the USDA announcement.

 “This is a great day for petroleum marketers who want to offer cleaner fuels, and an even better day for drivers, who will save money with more biofuel options at the pump.” said Ron Lamberty, American Coalition for Ethanol senior vice president. “The USDA-BIP program funds will assist station owners who want to stand out from the competition and offer fuel blends like E15 and E85 to consumers. Making higher ethanol blends available in more stations from coast to coast has been a priority of Secretary Vilsack, and this program does that, by offering funds to retailers from Pennsylvania to Texas, and from Florida to Colorado.” Lamberty added ACE is pleased that a station supplied by Protec Fuel was chosen for the announcement.  “Protec has already helped over 300 retailers – mostly single station or small chain owners – break through the imaginary blend wall by offering E85 and other higher blends, and these funds will push that number up to nearly 500.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen applauded USDA for its continued investment in biofuels. “USDA in general and Secretary Vilsack particular are to be commended for providing consistent, concerted, and courageous leadership when it comes to investing in American energy,” said Dinneen. “These matching grants will inject the capital that is needed to build out the infrastructure that is critical for increasing consumer access to higher ethanol blends. Today’s announcement by USDA underscores the importance of having the private sector invest in our nation’s biofuels industry. Our hope is that EPA is watching and paying close attention.”

“This is a big win for both corn farmers and consumers,” said Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Association. “While we celebrate this program, we will continue to push the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to uphold the statutory volumes of ethanol required under the Renewable Fuel Standard. With more pumps coming online, it’s important to have the fuel they provide ready to go.”

Speaking for the ethanol industry’s Prime the Pump Fund, Ray Defenbaugh, chairman, said, “The investment the USDA and other industries are making to give consumers more choices at the pump goes a long way to break Big Oil’s stranglehold on the fuel market. America’s farmers and biofuel producers can provide a cleaner, greener, higher octane fuel that actually lowers the price of gasoline at the pump. We’re now seeing several of the nation’s leading fuel retailers making these fuel blends available to consumers and these USDA funds will help to make this continue to happen. I would like to thank the USDA and specifically Secretary Vilsack for their leadership and commitment to rural America.”