Ethanol groups applaud new round of USDA HBIIP funding

By Erin Voegele | August 23, 2022

Representatives of the ethanol industry are applauding the launch of a new application period for the USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program and offering assistance to fuel retailers and others who want apply for the $100 million in grants offered by the agency.

The HBIIP is a competitive grant program that aims to significantly increase the sales and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products. Investments made under HBIIP aim to help 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. Under the program, higher blends include ethanol blends of greater than 10 percent and biodiesel blends of greater than 5 percent. Grants made under the program can cover up to 50 percent of total eligible project costs, up to $5 million.

Applications for the new round of funding are due Nov. 21. The agency is expected to make awards approximately 90 days after the application deadline.

The American Coalition for Ethanol said the latest round of HBIIP funding will help expand the availability and use of higher ethanol blends. “Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA continues to make funding available to help fuel marketers pay for equipment they install or upgrade to offer higher ethanol blends at c-stores, gas stations and blending facilities,” said Ron Lamberty, chief marketing officer at ACE. “This program helps make lower carbon ethanol blends available in more locations to help meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. In most of the country, E85 is a lower carbon option than even plug-in electric vehicles and it is available right now at prices well below the cost of gasoline. There are more than 20 million flex fuel vehicles on the road already and if we’re serious about decreasing transportation carbon emissions, more E15 and E85 fueling locations can help move the needle in weeks and months, not years.  

“ACE was pleased to provide input on ways to improve this round of funding, including making funds more accessible to small marketers, by sharing feedback we received from the single-store and small chain operators we work with regularly,” Lamberty added. “We’ll again promote USDA’s biofuel infrastructure program with paid advertising, a new round of video tutorials we plan to film with the USDA HBIIP manager, and by helping retailers across the country submit applications. We were excited to jumpstart this promotion earlier this month by hosting USDA and some top marketers at a free workshop to help us get the word out to other retailers.”

The Renewable Fuels Association is applauding the new funding and stressing that it stands ready to assist program applicants. “This investment by USDA in lower-cost, lower-carbon biofuels will benefit consumers across the country, while also creating new market opportunities for America’s farmers and ethanol producers,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA, who joined USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Gibson City, Illinois, this morning for the announcement. “USDA’s previous investments in biofuels infrastructure yielded huge dividends for drivers this summer, as higher blends like E15 and E85 were the most affordable options at the pump. We greatly appreciate the vision and leadership shown by Secretary Vilsack, and we are pleased by the Biden administration’s recognition that ethanol and other renewable fuels are an important tool in the quest to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Growth Energy is also welcoming the latest round of HBIIP funding. “We applaud Secretary Vilsack for his ongoing efforts to expand access to lower-cost, lower-emissions biofuels,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We have heard countless success stories from our retail partners about how HBIIP grants have helped them expand options at the pump and bring cleaner, more affordable options to drivers across the nation. Today’s announcement reaffirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring a new wave of growth for higher biofuel blends, and we look forward to working with members of the retail community to help them take full advantage of this growth opportunity.”

Additional information is available on the Federal Register website