$100 Million for Infrastructure, $19.5 Million for Biomass Transport
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is continuing the Obama administration’s push for domestically produced renewable fuels, accepting applications for $100 million in funding under BIP, the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, until July 15. Separately, USDA is re-launching a program to assist farmers in getting biomass to market, for which it’s earmarked $19.5 million.
The basic goal of BIP is to boost the percentage of biofuel available in conventional gasoline from the 10% that’s common today by improving the national fuel distribution system to better accommodate biofuels.
According to the Commodity Credit Corporation, which is handling the BIP grants, these of E15 in the U.S. last year “was limited by the very small number of vehicle fueling stations choosing to market it, which number fewer than 200 out of a total of more than 150,000 vehicle fueling stations nationwide.
Better Prices at the Pump?
“Similarly, the number of vehicle fueling stations offering E85 was about 3,000 by the end of 2014, representing only about 2% vehicle fueling stations nationwide. In addition,” says CCC, “while price data is limited, it appears that the limited network of E15 and E85 vehicle fueling stations means that consumers are not seeing the full price benefits that these higher blends could offer.”
USDA wants to double the number of fuel pumps capable of supplying the higher ethanol blends: “This will expand markets for farmers, support rural economic growth and the jobs that come with it, and ultimately give consumers more choices at the pump,” the agency says.
Fuel Pumps and Related Infrastructure
According to BIP guidelines, “CCC funds must be used to pay a portion of the costs related to the installation of fuel pumps and related infrastructure dedicated to the distribution of higher ethanol blends, for example E15 and E85, at vehicle fueling locations.”
“States that offer funding equal to or greater than that provided by the federal government,” USDA says, “will receive higher consideration for grant funds.”
Matching contributions may be used for equipment, and for marketing, education, data collection, program evaluation and administrative costs.
BCAP to Better Move Biomass to Market
USDA’s resumed biomass transportation incentives will be handled through BCAP, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. The agency is allotting $11.5 million “for costs associated with harvesting and transporting agriculture or forest residues to facilities that convert biomass crops into energy.”
Eligible crops include corn residue, diseased or insect infested wood materials, or orchard waste. Processors are invited to apply for BCAP qualification or renew their existing status. The $11.5 million is to support the delivery of biomass materials through December 2015.
Additionally, the agency will allocated up to $8 million for the expansion and enhancement of existing BCAP project areas. Solicitation for these funds will take place through fall 2015 and will allow farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners time to complete environmental assessments as needed.
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Source: USDA with Fleets & Fuels follow-up