By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 8 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday that USDA is revising its REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) to provide grants and guaranteed loans to help the nation's 110,000 gas stations and convenience stores install ethanol blender pumps. With only 2,300 pumps nationwide today where consumers can fill up with E85 (85% ethanol), today's announcement is aimed at giving consumers greater choice – and aimed at boosting ethanol demand to reduce crude oil imports. Vilsack said the goal is to add another 10,000 flexible fuel blender pumps within the next few years.


Filling up with E85 – 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline.

Vilsack explained that adding ethanol pumps across the country is part of President Obama's commitment “to ensure a cleaner, safer and more secure energy future . . . that ultimately breaks our dependence on foreign oil and moves the nation towards a clean energy economy.” Vilsack said this job-creating plan to reduce imports by one-third by 2025 is ambitious but achievable.

Vilsack said each new blender pump installation would cost some $120,000 to cover the retail pump, underground piping and tank storage. He said the cost to USDA will depend on the level of interest shown by gas station owners in making use of the new REAP grants and loan guarantees. He added that USDA “will continue to look for additional ways in which we can provide assistance and incentives.” He pointed out that some members of Congress are considering additional ways to increase ethanol use through legislation.

Vilsack said that as new ethanol pumps are added across the country, “consumers can go in and if they have an E10, an E15, E85, E20 vehicle, whatever they might have, that they are able to easily and conveniently access the fuel they need.” He said the administration's hope is that adding more pumps will encourage Detroit to build more flex-fuel vehicles with “the $100 to $150 part that would make virtually every new vehicle a flexible-fuel vehicle.”

At midday Friday, due to the looming government shutdown, Sec. Vilsack cancelled his planned trip to a North Carolina blender pump manufacturing plant. To listen to a special Agri-Pulse audio report from Stewart Doan in which Vilsack discusses the impact that a federal government shutdown would have on USDA operations and services, click HERE.

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