OPINION: If you’re thinking about E15 and flex fuels, think fast.

By Ron Lamberty, senior vice president, American Coalition for Ethanol | July 01, 2020

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a program to help pick up the tab for biofuel infrastructure called the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). The program makes $100 million dollars available to fuel retailers and pays up to 50 percent of the cost of buying and installing new equipment or upgrading existing equipment to sell E15 and flex fuels like E85. And if you’re thinking the money is all going to go to the big chains, think again. USDA has tagged 40 percent of HBIIP funds owners of single-stores and chains with 10 stations or less.

So, if you’ve been thinking about stepping up, standing out from the competition, and growing your profits with higher ethanol blends, there may be no better time to make the change. USDA is trying to give you a nudge with free money to help make your decision easier, but if you’ve been thinking about E15 and flex fuels, you’d better think fast. The application process takes some time, and the deadline for applying is Aug. 13. Fortunately, if you’re interested, we can help.

The HBIIP application can look daunting to a busy c-store operator, and single-store owners and small chains don’t have departments or staff who handle this sort of thing. Station owners can complete the application process themselves, and ACE is available to help when you need assistance. We know you can’t eat this application elephant all at once, so we’ve worked with USDA to create short videos at flexfuelforward.com, breaking the process into bite-sized chunks so marketers can finish it off a little at a time.

The Flex Fuel Forward campaign recognizes marketers trust the experience and opinions of other marketers, and when you visit the flexfuelforward.com site, you can also hear from station owners who have already ‘been there and done that” when it comes to higher ethanol blends. The site shares the stories of retailers across the country selling E15 and flex fuels. They didn’t do it as an experiment or a ‘favor’ to someone, they did it to bring in new customers, add volume, and make more money - and it worked.

In addition to preference for retailers with 10 or less locations, the scoring process determining who receives USDA’s grant awards gives additional points to stations west of the Mississippi and the six New England states, as well as stations within one mile of an Interstate highway and stores that have no competition within a one-mile radius. Past programs may have made it difficult to impossible for smaller convenience store operators to participate, but not this time. If you’ve been upset because you felt previous grant programs left you out, this is your chance. You can do it and there are plenty of people willing to help you apply and have the best chance of being awarded a grant. If you pass up the chance this time, it’s all on you.