Perdue memo directs USDA fleet to increase biofuel use

By Erin Voegele | March 02, 2020

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a memo on Feb. 28 directing the USDA to acquire alternative fueled vehicles (AFVs), including those that can use E85 or biodiesel, when replacing conventionally fueled vehicles.

The memo notes that the USDA owns and operates one of the largest civilian fleets in the federal government. “As we strive to meet federal mandates to acquire alternative fueled vehicles (AFV) and decrease the number of conventionally fueled vehicles, there are measures USDA must take to increase the number of biofuel-capable vehicles, and the use of biofuels, in our fleet operation,” Perdue wrote.

The USDA current has approximately 37,000 vehicles in its fleet and replaces approximately 3,000 of those vehicles each year. According to Perdue, the UDSA’s fiscal year 2019 annual fleet report indicates the agency has more than 16,000 flexible-fuel vehicles in its fleet that can operate on gasoline or E85 and more than 3,700 diesel fuel vehicles that can operate on biodiesel blends at appropriate locations. The gasoline-powered component of the USDA fleet consists of 14,000 vehicles that are post-2000 vintage, Perdue wrote, noting those vehicles are E15 compatible.

“Although those flex-fuel and diesel fuel categories comprise more than half of the department’s fleet, biofuel consumption comprises less than 4 percent of USDA’s annual fuel use,” Perdue wrote. “The costs and efficiencies of biofuels are compatible with conventional fuels, there are now additional costs needed to acquire these vehicles, and biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

While the UDSA has made significant progress in acquiring AFVs that can use E85 or biodiesel, Perdue said the agency must take the necessary steps to increase biofuels use. As a result, the memo directs mission areas and agencies within the UDSA with fleet operations to take several steps, including informing the General Services Administration of the desire to acquire vehicles that can be fueled with E85 or biodiesel whenever practical. The memo also asks affected parties to use station locator websites to increase consumption of E15, E85 and biodiesel; prioritize the purchase of E15 for gasoline vehicles without E85 capability and the purchase of renewable diesel for diesel vehicles without B20 capability; and continue adherence to Executive Order 13834, which established progress metrics, requirements, and priority strategies for vehicle acquisition and fuel use. USDA locations that have in-house fueling pumps are asked to coordinate with fuel vendors to acquire and provide biofuel blends and ensure the fuel prices appropriately reflect the value of renewable identification numbers (RINs), the biodiesel blending tax credit, and California Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits.

“These actions have the potential to increase USDA’s annual consumption of E15 by 9 million gallons, E85 by 10 million gallons, and biodiesel and renewable diesel blends by 3 million gallons,” Perdue wrote. As availability of E15, E85, and biodiesel expands through the nation, we have the opportunity to reach these goals and have a significant impact. Where biofuels are available the USDA fleet is directed to use biofuels.”

A full copy of the memo can be downloaded from the USDA website.