On May 29th, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $100 million in grants offered through their Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program. According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the move is to make renewable fuel options more available to American consumers. The program is a 1:1 partnership with states to build fueling stations and purchase blender pumps for E15 and higher. The preliminary spending tally estimates $210 million for 5,000 pumps at 1,400 fueling stations in 21 states.
This latest money toss is yet another multi-million dollar outlay resulting from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). The mandate requires gasoline to be blended with renewable fuel sources at incremental increasing levels.
The original RFS mandated level was 10% ethanol or E-10. The next mandated level, 15% ethanol or E-15, is a blend level the EPA labels to be used only in Flex-fuel passenger vehicles, model years 2001 and newer. The label goes on to state, “Do not use in other vehicles, boats, or gasoline-powered equipment. It may cause damage and is prohibited by Federal law”. Still, the EPA wants to make even higher blend levels available, even if that means taxpayers are to fund the necessary infrastructure.
Unlike the traditional pumps where a consumer makes the fuel choice of diesel, unleaded, or octane levels, the government has decided to fund blender pumps offering a choice between ethanol or even more ethanol. Even though the overwhelming preference of consumers, environmentalist, economists, most ag sectors and automakers is E-0, an option not found on the new pumps.
Though extensive studies with science-based evidence prove the damage ethanol contributes to the environment and engines, along with the real damage to a market-based economy, federal agencies continue to dig deeper into the ethanol quagmire. Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the RFS costs outweighed its benefits and criticized the EPA’s economic analysis of the RFS as intentionally misleading. In a 2014 report to Congress, the GAO exposed the agency’s false reporting of the program’s costs stating, “EPA estimated net benefits of the mandated volumes ranging from $13 to $26 billion.” However, the EPA did not include the infrastructure costs (such as this latest $100 million) in their calculations. An expense the EPA estimates to total an astounding $90.5 billion.