House bill would expand ethanol infrastructure

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Iowa Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack this week introduced legislation to boost investment in renewable fuel infrastructure.

The bill, introduced Tuesday, would create a competitive grant program run by the Department of Agriculture for renewable and alternative fuel infrastructure improvements. Grants would be aimed at rural areas and help fund ethanol pumps at gas stations, new storage tanks and piping, and electric vehicle chargers.

The grant program established by H.R. 4051 would be paid for by setting aside 1 percent of offshore oil royalties each fiscal year. Grants would be limited to $100,000 per entity per year, and recipients would be required to match a minimum of 30 percent of the award.

“I believe in making things in America and there is no reason our fuel sources shouldn’t be made here as well,” Loebsack said in a statement. “It’s also important that consumers are able to choose where their fuel source comes from when they go to fill up.”

The Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, two ethanol trade groups, support the legislation. The bill has no co-sponsors.

In September, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a separate bill to build up the nation’s renewable fuel infrastructure. The Harkin bill would create a $1 billion grant program for the installation of ethanol pumps at gas stations, require the Department of Energy to issue new regulations that would compel fuel distributors to install at least one ethanol pump at half their gas stations by 2022, and create a loan guarantee program to fund renewable fuel pipelines (E&E Daily, Oct. 2, 2013).

U.S. EPA regulations allow passenger vehicles with model years 2001 and newer to fill up with gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, but widespread rollout of E15 has been slow to materialize because of concerns raised by oil industry groups and auto manufacturers over engine damage.

Over the past few years, the Agriculture Department had been using an energy program set up under the farm bill to provide funding for gas stations to install ethanol pumps that could handle E15 and E85, gasoline containing up to 85 percent ethanol. But the new five-year farm bill signed into law last week stripped the department’s authority to use the Rural Energy for America Program to subsidize the installation of the pumps.