States set to get E15 grants

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending $100 million to add 5,000 blender pumps in 21 states in an effort to handle E15, or gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol.

The USDA estimates that the investment will more than double the number of stations that offer intermediate blends of ethanol, mainly E15 fuel levels, nationwide.

The move, which USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Sept. 10, is part of a department grant program, the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership.

“The Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership is one approach USDA is using to aggressively pursue investments in American-grown renewable energy to create new markets for U.S. farmers and ranchers, help Americans save money on their energy bills, support America’s clean energy economy, cut carbon pollution and reduce dependence on foreign oil and costly fossil fuels,” Vilsack said in a statement.

The BIP, announced in May, authorized the agency to invest $100 million to double the number of renewable fuel blender pumps that can supply consumers with higher ethanol blends, such as E15 and E85.

The announcement was made as the Environmental Protection Agency proposed increasing the amount of ethanol required in the overall fuel supply, although it lowered the amounts required by the Clean Air Act, angering both critics and supporters of ethanol.

The boating industry has long opposed introducing E15 into the main fuel supply because it has been shown to damage boat engines, and it is in fact prohibited by the EPA for fueling boats.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association spoke out against the move, saying it includes the popular boating states of Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

“As more and more E15 enters the market, the likelihood of misfueling increases. NMMA remains steadfast in our efforts to oppose the development of E15,” the NMMA said in a newsletter.

“We are currently working with our stakeholder partners on a strategy that counters the government’s award program and continue to call on Congress to make the legislative changes to fix the dangerous ethanol mandate.”