On Oct. 21, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA plans to allocate existing funds to assist the installation of 10,000 blender pumps across the country within the next five years, Ethanol Producer magazine reported.
The initiative was one of many put forth by the USDA to further support the development, production and use of biofuels.
“I believe the state of the rural economy and President [Barack] Obama’s vision for rural America compels us to action now,” Vilsack said. “I believe the goals articulated within the RFS2 mandate action now. And I believe the need for energy security, a cleaner environment and better economic opportunity in rural America make a case for action now.”
To combat the reluctance of retail station owners to invest in costly dispensers and storage tanks for E15, Vilsack has instructed rural development officials to provide matching funds for the installation of 10,000 blender pumps and storage systems over the next five years.
Existing funds from the USDA’s budget will be used to support the blender pump build-out. The agency has estimated that a complete blender pump system ranges in price from $25,000 to $50,000. Work on the blender pump program will commence “immediately,” Vilsack added.
Vilsack also said he will encourage the use of E85 and biodiesel in the USDA’s fleet of more than 40,000 vehicles. The agency’s fleet consumed approximately 19.5 million gallons of fuel in fiscal year 2009, so the impact of increased E85 use could be substantial, he said, adding that he hopes the USDA will serve as a model for federal departments with larger vehicle fleets to follow.
Ethanol industry groups praised the USDA’s efforts to expand the ethanol infrastructure. Growth Energy, which presented its own plan several months ago to expand the availability of blender pumps nationwide, said Vilsack’s initiative will benefit all Americans. “The measures announced today accelerate our progress toward energy independence and getting our economy going again,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. He pointed out that there are currently fewer than 250 blender pumps installed throughout the U.S.