US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has directed the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to acquire alternative fueled vehicles (AFV) when replacing conventionally fueled vehicles. USDA owns and operates one of the largest civilian fleets in the Federal Government and this move to a fleet that can use E85 or biodiesel will increase efficiencies and performance.
Additionally, as part of the President’s October agreement to seek opportunities to facilitate the availability of higher biofuel blends across the country, USDA will make $100 million in grants available this year for the newly created Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). (Earlier post.)
Through this program, transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities will be able to apply for grants to help install, retrofit, and/or upgrade fuel storage, dispenser pumps, related equipment and infrastructure to be able to sell ethanol and biodiesel. The Department plans to publish application deadlines and other program information in the Federal Register this spring.
Background on USDA Fleet. USDA is moving to acquire E85- or biodiesel-capable vehicles that meet USDA mission requirements instead of those that take conventional gasoline. This will occur over time during the normal fleet renewal process. USDA currently has 37,000 vehicles and replaces approximately 3,000 every year. Secretary Perdue directed USDA to:
Acquire E85 or biodiesel-capable vehicles that meet USDA mission requirements;
Use station locator websites and applications to fuel with E15, E85, and biodiesel where available;
Prioritize the purchase of E15 for gasoline vehicles without E85 capability and the purchase of renewable diesel blends for diesel vehicles without B20 capability; and
For USDA locations that have in-house refueling pumps, coordinate with fuel vendors to acquire and provide biofuel blends, including E15, E85, B20 and higher biodiesel blends, and renewable diesel blends.
These actions have the potential to increase USDA’s annual consumption of E15 by up to 9 million gallons, E85 by 10 million gallons, and biodiesel and renewable diesel blends by up to 3 million gallons.
As availability of E15, E85, and biodiesel expands through the nation, USDA has the opportunity to reach these goals and have a significant impact. Where biofuels are available, the USDA fleet is directed to use biofuels.
Background on Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). HBIIP will consist of up to $100 million in funding for competitive grants or sales incentives to eligible entities for activities designed to expand the sales and use of ethanol and biodiesel fuels.
Funds will be made directly available to assist transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities with converting to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to and/or offering sales incentives for the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment, and infrastructure. Cost-share grants and/or incentives will be made available for higher fuel ethanol/biodiesel blends such as E15 and B20 (or higher), at vehicle fueling locations, including, but not limited to, local fueling stations, convenience stores (CS), hypermarket fueling stations (HFS), and/or fleet facilities, as well as fuel terminals for biodiesel.
Prospective participants and stakeholders should expect additional specific program information and requirements to be published by mid-spring which will clarify the application process, eligibility, and how applications for grant funding will be scored.