SAF job market’s takeoff

A new study commissioned by the center-left think tank Third Way found that the sustainable aviation fuel industry could support nearly 400,000 jobs by 2035 with continued federal and state support. The analysis, conducted by Evolved Energy Research and Industrial Economics, looked at the economic impacts if airlines fully switched to SAF by mid-century.

The groups found the transition to SAF could result in $1.5 trillion in domestic investment by 2050, and that job creation would outweigh losses from the conventional aviation fuel industry. Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota would benefit most from the employment gains. The report comes as the SAF industry awaits modeling updates from the Biden administration that will determine what feedstocks qualify for incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act.

https://thirdway.imgix.net/pdfs/override/Soaring-to-New-Heights

Huge Chinese, Brazilian corn crops may limit US exports into 2025

NAPERVILLE, Illinois, April 4 (Reuters) – China may be poised to grow a record-large corn crop in 2024, besting the previous year’s record despite government incentives aimed at increasing plantings of soybeans at the expense of corn.

That could keep Chinese corn supplies plentiful enough to further reduce reliance on U.S. corn exports, especially with a possible production rebound next year for Brazil, a relatively new corn supplier to China.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beijing attache this week forecast 2024-25 Chinese corn output up 2.4% to a record 296 million metric tons on improved yields and higher plantings. That would make for a fourth consecutive record in Chinese corn production, which four years ago stood near 261 million tons.

Food security remains of top concern for China, and curbing dependence on imports is part of the strategy. China’s imported corn in 2023-24 is expected to account for 8% of domestic consumption versus 87% for soybeans, prompting increased farmer subsidies for soybeans versus corn in 2024-25.

Chinese farmers still expect higher profits for corn over soy, especially given the recent improvements in corn yields and the potential further growth offered by genetically engineered seeds (GE), only recently introduced.

USDA estimates only 1.5% of China’s 2024-25 corn area will be under GE seeds, though that could reach as much as 15% within the next two years.

It is unclear whether further expansion in China’s corn crop will eventually ratchet down the country’s imports, which have been historically strong in the last four years despite the bumper crops. USDA’s attache projects 2024-25 Chinese corn imports at 20 million tons, down from 23 million this year.

Brazil has been China’s top corn supplier since Brazilian vessels first began arriving there in early 2023, pushing out U.S. exports, which had been hot since China started buying large volumes of U.S. corn in mid-2020.

USDA’s Brasilia attache this week pegged 2024-25 Brazilian corn production up 6% from this year on a return to normal yields and a slightly higher area. However, a smaller 2023-24 crop, most of which is still being grown, could keep Brazilian corn prices higher and favor rival exporters.

Falling U.S. corn prices could be U.S. exporters’ ticket into China and other markets while Brazilian supply is lighter. Chinese corn prices are often well above global ones, so sufficiently low prices overseas can have Chinese buyers preferring imports even when domestic supply is plentiful.

U.S. PACE PICKING UP

Census Bureau data released on Thursday showed February U.S. corn exports at a nine-month high of 5.37 million tons, up 64% from last year and safely above the five-year average. March-May is the busiest time for U.S. corn shipments, and that was highlighted in last week’s export numbers.

USDA figures on Thursday placed U.S. corn exports in the week ended March 28 at a marketing-year high of 1.64 million tons, well above the 1.43 million reported on Monday as inspected for export during that same week.

However, almost none of the February U.S. corn volume was to China, and as few as two cargoes were shipped there last month. As of March 28, just 157,100 tons of purchased U.S. corn still awaited shipment to China in 2023-24, the lowest for that date in seven years.

Potentially helpful for U.S. exporters is the backing off of Brazilian corn exports last month. Brazil on Thursday reported March corn exports at 431,307 tons, two-thirds lighter than a year ago. Less than 20% was to China.

Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

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Writing by Karen Braun Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.

As a columnist for Reuters, Karen focuses on all aspects of the global agriculture markets with a primary focus in grains and oilseeds. Karen comes from a strong science background and has a passion for data, statistics, and charts, and she uses them to add context to whatever hot topic is driving the markets. Karen holds degrees in meteorology and sometimes features that expertise in her columns. Follow her on Twitter @kannbwx for her market insights.

Ramstad: The debate over ethanol’s future stalls push for less-harmful gasoline in Minnesota

Environmentalists who favored a low-carbon fuel standard in the past now think its time has gone.

Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company general manager Bill Lee intends to gasify corn cobs to help to power his Benson Minnesota ethanol plant. Right now th
DML – STAR TRIBUNE STAR TRIBUNE, STAR TRIBUNE. Corn cobs outside the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company plant in Benson, Minn.

In mid-February, a dozen environmental groups wrote a letter to Minnesota legislators urging them not to adopt a low-carbon fuel standard recommended by a group of 40 people, including some of their own leaders.

It’s not often environmentalists oppose an idea known to lower emissions of carbon — one of the greenhouse gases causing the planet to warm. These dissenters had an effect. By late last month, when the Legislature locked in bills to act on this session, mandating a lower-carbon, Minnesota-only gasoline wasn’t one of them.

“They’re hearing a bunch of environmental groups that like it and they’re hearing a few that don’t. That puts [lawmakers] in a tough spot,” said Brendan Jordan, a vice president at Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development, a Minneapolis nonprofit organization whose backers include energy producers. Jordan was a member of the Clean Transportation Standard Work Group that produced the low-carbon fuel standard report just before the Legislature convened.

When I started phoning around for details, I expected to learn this was one of those times when activists were unwilling to compromise and their pursuit of the perfect had become the enemy of the good. Turns out, something more interesting is going on.

The future of ethanol is being debated.

A business that has been sacrosanct in political circles for decades, shaped by perceptions about its environmental benefits and importance to farmers, is now on shakier ground.

This has implications for agriculture and the economy of Minnesota, as well as energy and climate. It’s not clear where the discussion among Minnesota policymakers is going, but the choices aren’t going to get easier for legislators and Gov. Tim Walz.

“The LCFS is, like ethanol itself, out of date,” the environmental groups wrote in that February letter, using an acronym for low-carbon fuel standard. “They have both been left behind by electrification.”

Americans’ demand for gasoline peaked in 2018. It fell sharply in the pandemic year of 2020 when people drove much less. It bounced back up in 2021, then resumed its downward drift in 2022 and 2023 as electric vehicle sales climbed. Last year, the nation consumed 376 million gallons of gasoline a day, down from 392 million a day in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

At this point, let me express some caution. I wrote early last year that EVs aren’t the rage they’re portrayed to be and sales trends since then have borne out that observation. Some of the slower growth in EV sales is simply the law of large numbers at work; rates of change are harder to sustain against a larger base. Some of it is a mismatch in the market, with buyers wanting lower-priced models than manufacturers are producing. Some of it is the which-comes-first dilemma with charging station infrastructure.

EVs will continue to gain market share, however, and will pressure demand for ethanol, which is mixed into nearly every gallon of gasoline produced in the U.S.

Minnesota is the fifth-largest producer of ethanol by capacity, with 19 plants producing 1.35 billion gallons last year, a 1% jump from 2022, according to a February report by the University of Minnesota Extension. That report called 2023 “a year of stability and growth in the ethanol industry.” The state’s ethanol plants consumed the equivalent of one-third of Minnesota-grown corn.

California in 2011 became the first state to create a gasoline formula that was less carbon intensive, forcing producers to adopt processes and ingredients that reduce carbon pollution. Ethanol is one of those ingredients, and farmers see the prospect of more low-carbon standards as a potential hedge against declining overall demand for gasoline.

The likelihood that ethanol will play an important role in sustainable aviation fuel is another hedge — and something that has brought Delta Air Lines into the discussion.

Minnesota and a handful of other states, mostly with Democratic-led statehouses, started working on their own lower-carbon formulas after Oregon and Washington followed California’s lead. California has added other regulations, like one for the phaseout of sales of fossil fuel-based vehicles by the mid-2030s.

I don’t think Minnesota will go that far, which is why the rejection of the LCFS by environmentalists is so interesting. It’s a gamble the electrification movement will stay on track and that the power of the ethanol lobby has peaked.

“If we had tried to do this in Minnesota 10 years ago, I might have been supportive,” said Kathleen Schuler, policy director for Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate. She participated in the working group and then signed the letter opposing its recommendation. “Now, this policy hangs on to liquid fuels longer than we need to.”

Missing from the working group’s discussion was the potential price at the pump of a special Minnesota gasoline. Only the state’s two refineries — Pine Bend in Rosemount and Marathon in St. Paul Park — are likely to make it. Out-of-state refiners may find it unprofitable to make a special blend for a place where their market share is so low.

No surprise, Minnesota’s consumers will join corn farmers making tradeoffs to slow the warming of the planet. We’re seeing how difficult it is to decide what the tradeoffs will be.

Evan Ramstad is a Star Tribune business columnist.

Exclusive: Biden administration’s initial SAF subsidy model to raise climate hurdle for ethanol

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) – The Biden administration will release a preliminary climate model for its sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) subsidy program in the coming weeks that is more restrictive than what the corn-based ethanol industry had expected, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Under the preliminary model, which could be released by May 15, ethanol is not expected to automatically qualify as a feedstock in the SAF subsidy program unless the corn involved is sourced from farmers using one of just three sustainable agriculture techniques, the sources said.

Those techniques include efficient tilling, use of cover crops and efficient fertilizer application, the sources said. White House officials, the final arbiter of the model, had considered forcing producers to use all three techniques in a none-or-all approach, but have backed off that plan, the sources said.

The ethanol industry had expected a broader range of agriculture techniques to be included in the model to help the fuel qualify.

The sources said the model could be expanded to include a broader range of options when the administration considers a rule establishing the Clean Fuel Production Credit, or 45Z, later this year.

The White House had been reluctant to immediately expand the options amid intense debate over how to verify that farms are actually doing the practices and whether they deliver the carbon reduction as promised.

The issue has thrust the White House into the complicated politics of ethanol and biofuels in an election year. Subsidies for such products are hugely popular in some Midwestern swing states, but converting farm land to help generate fuel, not food, angers environmentalists.

The White House declined to comment.

To access SAF subsidies, producers must demonstrate their feedstock is 50% lower in emissions than jet fuel. Ethanol is expected to miss the 50% threshold after environmental penalties for converting land for fuel, something that would force the industry to rely on smart agriculture practices to get back above the credit threshold.

Environmentalists are skeptical of the carbon reduction benefits of the smart agriculture practices and have been pushing the White House to limit their value in the model.

The Biden administration wants SAF to play a key role in decarbonizing the transportation sector, and included a $1.25 per gallon tax credit for its production in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The administration hopes the tax credit will generate 3 billion gallons of production of sustainable aviation fuels by 2030.

Ethanol producers see the nascent SAF industry and its subsidies as the corn-based fuel’s top chance for market growth, amid stagnant demand for gasoline.

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Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia Writing by Jarrett Renshaw and Richard Valdmanis Editing by Marguerita Choy and Matthew Lewis

Emissions model for aviation fuel will be ready ‘in the very near future’, says EPA administrator

April 5 (Reuters) – Revisions to a key emissions model for sustainable aviation fuel feedstocks will be ready “in the very near future,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan in Philadelphia on Friday.

The Biden administration pledged last year to update how the Department of Energy’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) model measures emissions from agricultural practices used by farmers producing biofuel feedstocks.

The revisions were delayed from an initial March 1 timeline after disputes among agencies about the changes, sources told Reuters at the time.

“In the very near future, we will have that model up and running,” Regan told the Society for Environmental Journalists conference.

The model is favored by the biofuels industry for measuring ethanol emissions to determine whether the fuel qualifies for a $1.25 per gallon sustainable aviation fuel tax credit passed in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The passage of the tax credit set off a lobbying battle between biofuel and farm groups and environmental organizations who argue producing fuel from crops is counterproductive to combating climate change.
The EPA, DOE, Department of Agriculture, Federal Aviation Administration, and White House have all been involved in discussions about implementing the credit.

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Reporting by Leah Douglas, Editing by Franklin Paul

Biden cements civil service protections from Trump firing spree

The safeguard comes as worries grow over a revival of the prior administration’s push to ease firing of federal employees.

Joe Biden delivers remarks.

The Biden administration announced Thursday its rule to strengthen civil service protections. Andrew Harnik/AP

President Joe Biden has bolstered defenses for the federal workforce to ward off mass firing by a potential second Trump administration.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday its rule to strengthen civil service protections. The long-anticipated safeguard aims to prevent former President Donald Trump creating a new category of career employees that would be much easier to fire.

“This final rule honors our 2.2 million career civil servants, helping ensure that people are hired and fired based on merit and that they can carry out their duties based on their expertise and not political loyalty,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement.

In his last months in the White House, Trump signed an executive order to establish Schedule F, a new class of federal employees involved in policymaking, which stripped them of their civil service rights. Few agencies complied with the order, however, and Biden revoked it soon after coming into office.

Still, allies of the Biden administration have grown worried about Schedule F being revived as the 2024 campaign heats up with the former president running again for the White House. Trump has vowed, if returned to office, to rework agencies and reduce staff in his push to take apart the deep state.

OPM’s rule “clarifies and reinforces” civil service protections and merit system principles that ended the patronage system for the federal workforce.

Federal worker unions and public interest groups urged the administration to craft the civil service rule, arguing it was warranted to guard against career staff being replaced by unqualified political aides if Trump is elected again.

Former Trump officials have criticized the rule, saying it will make it more difficult to fire underperforming or misbehaving government employees. A future administration could also overturn the measure with its own rulemaking process.

Hill climate caucus warns EPA of ‘crippling’ delays on carbon storage

Lawmakers on the House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus say “there is not time to waste” in approving carbon storage projects.

House Climate Solutions Caucus Co-Chairs Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.).

House Climate Solutions Caucus co-chairs Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) in July 2023. They are pressing EPA on carbon storage permits. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Members of the House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus want to know why EPA has delayed permitting of underground carbon dioxide storage projects.

The lawmakers further argue the inaction is “actively crippling U.S. efforts to deploy vital clean energy and carbon capture infrastructure alike.”

In a letter sent by seven lawmakers to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, they also challenge EPA’s “dismal” record of deploying so-called Class VI wells for long-term underground carbon storage following their approval through the permitting process.

“We understand the EPA is currently processing one hundred and eighty-one Class VI well permit applications,” wrote the lawmakers, led by co-chairs Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.).

Bill to extend California’s CCS pipeline moratorium won’t move forward this year

The bill would have kept the state’s moratorium on pipelines for carbon capture and sequestration in place until both the state and federal governments finish safety rules.

Active pump jacks increase pressure to draw oil toward the surface at the South Belridge Oil Field.

California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula’s (D) bill to extend the state’s carbon dioxide pipeline moratorium didn’t have the community backing it needed to overcome industry opposition. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

SACRAMENTO, California — Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula pulled his bill to add more safety regulations for carbon dioxide pipelines ahead of a Wednesday hearing after it encountered industry and labor pushback and failed to get support from Central Valley environmental justice groups.

“Community groups have asked me to hold off for now,” he said in a statement. “For this reason, I am not planning to move the bill forward this year.”

Why it matters: California’s climate plan relies on technology like carbon capture and storage to meet its emissions reduction targets, but groups living near proposed project sites have concerns over the potential for pipelines to leak and rupture, which can in some cases be lethal.

Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, had been trying to address Central Valley residents’ concerns over pipeline safety in his AB 2623, but industry argued that requiring project developers to wait for a new layer of regulations circumvented the process the legislature had already established and would delay projects.

DOE cancels purchases for strategic oil reserve

The department cited rising crude prices, which topped $84 a barrel this week.

A nozzle pumps gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station

A nozzle pumps gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Los Angeles. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Energy canceled two major purchases to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on Wednesday — a signal that the Biden administration may slow or pause replenishment of the reserve as oil prices rise.

DOE will not award contracts to supply the SPR with a total of 3 million barrels of crude oil in August and September, as prices topped $84 per barrel of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate. The agency cited the need to keep “the taxpayer’s interest at the forefront,” but said it would “continue to solicit available capacity as market conditions allow.”

“As always, we monitor market dynamics to remain nimble and innovative in our successful replenishment approach to protect this critical national security asset,” DOE said in a statement.

The agency has previously said it would not replenish the SPR if oil prices reached above $79 a barrel. But DOE announced last week — when barrel prices were at $81 — that it would spend $225.6 million on 2.8 million barrels of crude for the SPR’s Big Hill cavern in Texas.

Big winner in Biden’s EV charging revolution: Gas stations

An exclusive data analysis for E&E News shows EV infrastructure law money may be boosting traditional sellers of fossil fuels.

Photo collage of a truck at a gas pump on one side and EV car at a charging station on the other with money raining down between them

POLITICO illustration/Photos by iStock

When Americans steer their electric vehicles off the highway and into shiny new charging stations — many paid for with federal tax dollars — they’re likely to find them in a curiously familiar place: the gas station.

More than half of the charging stations being built so far from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law are rising at truck stops and gasoline stations, according to data exclusively provided to E&E News by EVAdoption, an EV data consultancy. In essence, the law’s $7.5 billion pot for charging is reinforcing the very fossil-fuel infrastructure that the EV era would seem to consign to oblivion.

That raises the prospect that money intended to cut emissions could throw a lifeline to companies that traditionally have raised them. Even so, many experts say the two industries are a natural fit.

“I’ve always kind of assumed that the combination of fueling station and convenience stop would dominate,” said Loren McDonald, the founder of EVAdoption. “They’re safe. They’re well lit. They have bathrooms on site. They have restaurants and stores. They check a lot of the boxes.”

After initially resisting EVs and their charging needs, fueling centers are now using their lobbying strength and financial might to win federal dollars they say are a necessary cushion to survive an expensive gas-to-EV transition.

“Now is when you really start seeing [gas stations] in a big way in the funding programs, really taking center stage,” said Lori Clark, who oversees EV strategy at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a regional planning organization.

The clamor for charging cash crosses blue and red state lines. The EVAdoption data shows that infrastructure law awards are set to transform gas stations in states that former President Donald Trump won in 2020, including Texas, Ohio and Utah, as well as states President Joe Biden won, such as Rhode Island and New Mexico.

Service stations have an upper hand in this first wave of subsidies because they occupy the very real estate where the federal government wants to build a charging backbone: at 50-mile intervals along the interstates and no more than a mile from highway exits.

But that’s not the only reason. Behind the scenes, service-station industry lobbyists have been working to tilt the rules to their advantage.

As a result, the biggest winners at the dawn of the EV-charging era are some of the biggest fossil-fuel sellers — familiar names like Pilot Flying J, Love’s Travel Stops, Sheetz, Circle K and Wawa — along with the retail division of oil major Shell.

The trend is finding little pushback. Even the Sierra Club — famous for its campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants — is cautiously welcoming the entry of gas stations into the EV economy.

“It’s not a bad thing we’re seeing the deployment of fast chargers at those locations,” said Joe Halso, a Sierra Club staff attorney who focuses on electric vehicles. “They are recognizing, whether they admit it or not, that electricity is the fuel of the future.”

Infrastructure law funding is funneled through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, or NEVI, administered by the Federal Highway Administration. Dollars don’t go directly into the pockets of gas station owners. Rather, the money is parceled out to states, where departments of transportation are responsible for building a statewide network and determining award recipients.

The money highlights a crucial difference between the EV and gasoline eras in terms of who owns the infrastructure.

At a gas station, the business owner and gas-pump operator are usually one and the same. That’s not so with charging stations. Instead, the charging provider — who owns and operates the equipment — often locates in the parking lot of another business called the site host.

As a result, the entity winning a federal award to build and operate the chargers — the bidder — is often distinct from the site where those chargers are located. Site hosts are not receiving NEVI funds but may benefit by linking up with charging companies that are.

As bidders, truck stops and gas station chains won $92.1 million, out of a total of $265 million awarded by the infrastructure law to date, according to the EVAdoption data. An additional $12.2 million was won by BP Pulse, the charging arm of British oil major BP.

The other award winners are mostly charging networks, led by Tesla, which got $23.4 million. Other entities that won smaller shares are real-estate developers, the electric automaker Rivian and a handful of electric utilities.

Gas and diesel sellers’ dominance is even greater when it comes to the site hosts — the places where the stations are actually built.

Gas stations and trucks stops together are hosts for almost 54 percent of NEVI-funded charging stalls. The largest chains dominate. For example, two of the nation’s biggest truck stop chains, Love’s and Pilot Flying J, are slated to host 39 charging plazas each.

Outside the fueling arena, state toll-road authorities, banks, hotels, casinos, malls and restaurants like Arby’s and Waffle House are expected to be site hosts.

States that have awarded NEVI funds to build chargers include Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Convenience wins, rural towns lose

The surge in cash for gas stations is prompting some environmentalists to say the Biden administration is missing an opportunity to pursue another of its goals: stimulating rural economies.

Under the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative, states are required to place 40 percent of federally funded EV charging stations in census tracts where poverty is high and educational attainment is low.

But because the NEVI rules require proximity to the highway and sites that operate 24/7, they could lead to EV drivers not stopping and spending money in rural downtowns, which are sleepy at night and distant from turnoffs.

“I had some hopes about bringing some rural economic development and community benefits, but it’s not as obvious to me that those things are being pursued rigorously” by the administration, said Sam Houston, a vehicles analyst at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.

In an emailed statement to E&E News, the Federal Highway Administration emphasized that the initial goal of the program is to create a convenient highway network. It also mentioned that another part of infrastructure law funding, called the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure program, funds projects off the highway with a priority on building charging stations in rural areas.

“From my time working at the local level, I know that finding electric vehicle charging in a community is different from finding charging along highways,” Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg said in a January press release.

The extensive application processes that states have put in place to win the money may also be creating barriers to small-business owners, including mom-and-pop gas stations and convenience stores. Overwhelmingly, the gas stations that will host NEVI stations are regional or national chains.

For example, a property owner in southwestern Colorado said in comments to the state that the paperwork led him to quit the process. “The requirements to receive these funds were way beyond the sole [proprietors’] reach and way more complicated than it needed to be,” he wrote.

Fuelers flip

Until recently, the gas station industry and its lobbyists often ignored EVs and their charging needs. “Their attitude was one of general opposition,” said Halso, the Sierra Club attorney.

Few gas stations hosted chargers, and when it came to public subsidies, the industry’s goal was to make sure electric utilities — a potential source of competition — didn’t get them.

That changed with the $7.5 billion for charging, along with a swelling number of EVs on the road.

Over the last two years, NATSO, the main trade association for truck stops, has spent “a lot” of time working on NEVI, said David Fialkov, the association’s vice president of government affairs, raising his eyebrows for emphasis. “Meaningful time and political capital,” he added.

NATSO submitted comments to FHWA in early 2022, asking the agency to make service stations the cornerstone of NEVI, arguing that the things EV drivers need are what gasoline stations already have.

“Most fuel retailers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide restrooms, food and beverage options,” NATSO said in its comment. It also argued it has the incentive to overcome the glitches that have bedeviled charging stations and sapped the public’s confidence in charging infrastructure.

‘‘We are conscripted to make sure that the customer experience is pleasant,” said Fialkov. “You don’t see a lot of broken gas pumps, and the reason is that the guy who runs the station loses money when the pump isn’t working.”

Federal rules are silent on what amenities a charging station must have to receive funds. But some states have, intentionally or not, aided gas stations in their application processes by requiring the sort of offerings that gas stations possess, such as restrooms and food courts. In some states, extra points are awarded to applications providing those perks.

Once the federal government set its minimum rules, Fialkov said, NATSO turned its efforts to persuading state DOTs to require amenities. “‘We wanted more uniformity and direction so every state would do it in the same way,” Fialkov said.

‘It’s a rough case’

Although the major fueling chains are winning the funding race, many say that building an EV-charging business will be a challenge.

“It’s a rough case,” said Tim Langenkamp, a vice president at Pilot Flying J, which is aiming to install about 200 charging plazas at its stations by the end of this year, in collaboration with the automaker General Motors and charging provider EVgo.

“The NEVI support is an important way of making the economics … better,” he added.

A chief problem for funding recipients is one that might never occur to an EV driver: A bank of charging stalls can make an electricity bill rocket through the roof.

Gasoline fluctuates a lot in price, but gas stations manage that by changing what they charge customers per gallon. That construct collapses when the fuel is electricity.

The reason is that the price of electricity can get volatile when businesses use a lot of it. If many EV drivers plug in to high-powered bank of chargers at the same time, it can result in a financial penalty from the electric utility, which needs electricity usage to be stable. This penalty, called a demand charge, makes it difficult for gas stations to project if EV chargers will be moneymakers or money losers.

“Demand charges is high on the list of things that keep me up at night,” said Kim Okafor, the general manager of zero-emission solutions at Love’s.

Winning the federal funds, Okafor said, is “tedious” and “time consuming.”

She said she brought on an engineer and a couple of project managers solely to manage NEVI grants. Of the states, she added, “they are not making it easy.”

What companies lose in terms of upfront costs and aggravation, they hope to make up from the pockets of EV drivers.

Sujay Sharma, the CEO of the American branch of BP Pulse, said that unlike gasoline customers, who typically linger five minutes or less, EV drivers stay on-site for 20 to 25 minutes, helping a company’s bottom line by buying food and drinks. “The EV consumer, their basket size tends to be higher,” he said.

The gas station’s presence on the future electric highway is one that EV drivers are just going to have to get used to, said McDonald of EVAdoption.

“For the people saying, ‘My God, this money is going to the evil oil companies’ — the way to think about it is that they are offering a solution,” he said. “There’s going to be lighting. There’s going to be windshield squeegees and water. There’s going to be drinks. There’s going to be food.”

“You’ve got to think of it as a place you refuel body, mind and car,” he said.