USDA is using a pair of funding rollouts to invest Inflation Reduction Act dollars aimed at increasing the availability of domestic biofuels.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said 59 infrastructure projects across 15 states will receive $25 million to support gas stations and distribution facilities in making biofuels more widely available. The announcement follows a December declaration to invest $50 million through the program; a USDA release notes Monday's announcement includes the “first awardees.”

The grants are intended to help gas stations install, retrofit, or upgrade fuel pumps and storage tanks to deliver ethanol blends greater than 10% and biodiesel blends greater than 20%.

Vilsack said the infrastructure for value-added agricultural products such as biofuels is critical for all aspects of the supply chain. 

“It provides new, better, and additional market opportunities for producers of corn and soybeans that go into these fuels,” Vilsack said.

In a news release, the Renewable Fuels Association said America’s ethanol producers, fuel retailers, and drivers will benefit from the investment.

“This program is instrumental in bringing the benefits of biofuels to drivers around the country who want access to lower-cost fuel that is better for the environment and public health,” Troy Bredenkamp, RFA senior vice president for government and public affairs, said in a statement. “We are grateful to President Biden and Secretary Vilsack for their support of this important initiative.”

IRA funds are invested through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program, first created in 2020, “to increase the availability of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel derived from U.S. agricultural products by sharing the costs to build and retrofit biofuel-related infrastructure.”

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Next month, USDA plans to begin accepting applications for $450 million more in HBIIP grants; the funding will be distributed in $90 million increments each quarter. 

According to a news release, approximately $67.5 million of those announcements will be headed to transportation fueling facilities, $18 million will go to fuel distribution facilities, and up to $4.5 million is for home heating oil distribution facilities.

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Chief Marketing Officer Ron Lamberty said getting more infrastructure in retailers will be key for biofuel industry growth.

“Those retailers are key to widespread availability of E15 and E85 and ACE continues to fight for them as the program evolves at USDA,” Lamberty said in a release. 

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