Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is taking steps to make it easier for gas station owners to finance flexible fuel pumps. Increasing the number of flexible fuel pumps by at least 10,000 over the several years was one of the goals President Obama set forth last week in his energy address.
"What we are doing is making an important clarification to our Rural Energy for America Program," Vilsack said. "It is going to allow us at USDA to provide grants and loan guarantees for the first time to folks at convenience stores, gas stations and petroleum markets wishing to install flexible fuel pumps."
Vilsack says this announcement is going to help expand the national biofuels industry and help create jobs across the country. According to Vilsack a distribution system including a tank would require somewhere around $120,000 and he says they are encouraging service station owners to consider how using the REAP program might reduce that overall cost.
Last fall Vilsack announced the intent to install over 10,000 blender pumps in the next five years. He says this program is one of several strategies that USDA is using to make good on that promise.
"We see this as an opportunity to create a series of incentives so consumers if they have an E10, E15, E85, E20, whatever they might have, that they will be able to easily and conveniently access the fuel that they need," Vilsack said. "Our theory is if we can build out the distribution system more effectively that will increase the demand for the product, which in turn will encourage Detroit and other auto manufacturers to produce flexible fuel vehicles."
Several groups of the ethanol industry praised Vilsack's announcement.
"The program announced today will accelerate our progress toward energy independence and getting our economy going again," said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. "Every Flex Fuel pump we install will help make our country more energy independent and more secure, all while giving consumers a choice at the pump that includes domestic, renewable ethanol."
American Coalition for Ethanol Vice President Ron Lamberty also voiced his support.
"ACE is pleased to have worked with USDA and other industry stakeholders since last fall as Secretary Vilsack began developing the programs needed to get 10,000 blender pumps installed across the nation," Lamberty said. "We look forward to continuing to do whatever we can to help make that goal a reality."