Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently that Americans will soon have more choices at the gas pump through a USDA program that will provide funding for installation of flexible fuel pumps. USDA is issuing a rule to clarify that the definition of renewable energy systems in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) includes flexible fuel pumps, sometimes referred to as "blender pumps." This clarification is intended to provide fuel station owners with incentives to install flexible fuel pumps that will offer Americans more renewable energy options. The Obama administration has set a goal of installing 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within 5 years.
"Flex-fuel pumps will give Americans a choice to purchase domestically produced renewable transportation fuels," Vilsack said. "USDA's energy programs are helping to build a clean energy economy, while creating green jobs here at home and making our nation more energy secure in the long-term."
Today, most gasoline sold in this country is a mix of 10 percent ethanol. Currently, there are 8 - 8.5 million flexible fuel vehicles on U.S. roads, constituting about 3.2 - 3.5 percent of the approximately 250 million vehicles on the road. These flexible fuel vehicles can be fueled with E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). There are approximately 2,350 fueling stations that offer E85 of the more than 167,800 stations nationwide. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the results of E15 testing on vehicles years 2001 and younger. EPA's findings confirms there are additional vehicles on the road able to take advantage of higher ethanol blends than currently available at your local, non-E85, pump.
In addition to flexible fuel pumps being eligible for funding under REAP, Vilsack noted that:
- Grants are available for audits of energy improvements and studies to determine the feasibility of renewable energy systems; and
- Agricultural producers in non-rural areas are eligible for REAP assistance. Small businesses must still be located in rural areas. This clarification makes REAP eligibility requirements consistent with those of other USDA energy programs.
A Federal Register notice on these clarifications will be published in the near future. USDA Rural Development will meet with elected Tribal officials in the upcoming months to discuss the impact of the changes on Tribal governments, communities and individuals. USDA will also host a series of informational meetings and workshops to explain the rule changes and to bring stakeholders together to advance retail Flex-Fuel installations.