Minnesota will soon be home to approximately 620 new flex-fuel pumps that give consumers the option of filling up with regular unleaded, or fuel blends like E15 and E85 that contain a higher percentage of homegrown ethanol.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that 21 states will receive grants through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) to add infrastructure needed to supply more renewable fuel to America’s drivers. Since announcing the program in May 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) received applications requesting over $130 million, outpacing the $100 million that is available. With a more than 1:1 match from private and state resources, USDA estimates that the BIP grants will support nearly 5,000 pumps at over 1,400 fueling stations across the country.
Thanks to the investments of a broad coalition that includes the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, American Lung Association in Minnesota, Minnesota Biofuels Association and Minnesota Ethanol Plants, more than 12 percent of those pumps will be installed at Minnesota fueling stations.
“This announcement further cements Minnesota as a national leader in homegrown biofuels,” said Bruce Peterson, a farmer in Northfield and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA). “Consumers are demanding cleaner-burning, renewable options at the pump. Minnesota’s corn farmers are proud to provide it to them through homegrown ethanol.”
Before the USDA grant funding, coalition investments had already resulted in over 40 Minnesota stations installing about 120 flex-fuel pumps that dispense a combination of regular unleaded, E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline, for use in all vehicles made in 2001 or newer), E30 and E85 (both for use in flex-fuel vehicles only).
Nationally, the USDA grant is expected to more than double the number of stations that offer intermediate ethanol blends such as E15. Because Minnesota has made the investments and efforts to install flex-fuel infrastructure and provide consumers access to homegrown biofuels, Minnesota leads the nation with over 12 percent of its fuel supply containing ethanol.
“Corn farmers have scored a big point in our ongoing battle with Big Oil and its efforts to use its deep pockets and lobbying power to block the installation of flex-fuel infrastructure,” said Doug Albin, who farms in Clarkfield and chairs the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. “The USDA announcement is also great news for air quality and the environment. Using more cleaner-burning fuels that are grown in our backyard means Minnesotans can breathe a bit easier and save a few bucks every time they fill up.”
Exact funding amounts for each state will be announced at a later date. For more information about USDA’s BIP program, go to http://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/energy-programs/.