Blender Pump Carrot

Incentive programs spur growth in ethanol infrastructure
By Holly Jessen | September 12, 2011

Missouri, Michigan and Kansas are a few of the states actively working to increase the number of blender and E85 pumps, increasing consumer access to the renewable fuel. Funding for this is available through a variety of federal, state and local programs, including the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.

In August, USDA Rural Development Business Program Administrator Judy Canales recognized Missouri for the approval of 26 biofuel pumps at fuel retailers—more than any other state in the nation. The pumps will be installed through a program with USDA Rural Development and a partnership with the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and the Missouri Department of Agriculture. "Missouri's unique team is leading the nation in applications, but more importantly, in actually making this work," Canales said. "But this is not the end of a campaign. This is step one. Our goal is 10,000 blender pumps [in the nation] over the next five years."

In Michigan, the 2011 Michigan Ethanol Infrastructure & Marketing Incentive offers funding for gas station to convert to or add blender pumps. In all, $50,000 is available through the Clean Energy Coalition, which is working with the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan. As of the end of August, $15,000 of the funding had been used. “Ideally, we would like to finish this project no later than December,” says Matt Sandstrom, division manager, Clean Energy Mobility. “However, we will extend the program if necessary.”  Retail stations can apply for grants of up to $10,000 per pump. In addition, stations can get awards for $5,000 or up to 50 percent of the cost of marketing materials and highway signage.

In Kansas, an application has been submitted to the U.S. DOE to use $5 million in federal stimulus money to install E85 pumps at nearly 40 gas stations around Wichita. Environmental reviews were under way in late August. The funds had been appropriated to Efficiency Kansas, a microloan program intended to help residents make energy-efficiency improvements in their homes. However, the program wouldn’t be able to use up all the funds by the federal deadline, says Kansas Department of Commerce spokesman Dan Lara. The idea is to use more than $20 million in stimulus funding on this and two other projects. 

—Holly Jessen