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Vilsack touts Biden’s biofuel support as he details new aid

'No administration has been more supportive of the biofuel industry than the Biden-Harris administration,' agriculture secretary says

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies to the House Agriculture Committee on March 28.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies to the House Agriculture Committee on March 28. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Critics of the EPA’s rule setting biofuel mandates for transportation use overlook the Biden administration’s ongoing support for an “important industry in the Midwest,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.

“The reality is no administration in my 30 years of dealing with this issue, no administration, has been more supportive of the biofuel industry than the Biden-Harris administration,” Vilsack said in response to a reporter’s question during a call where he announced the availability of nearly $500 million to improve and expand the distribution of ethanol and biodiesel.

Vilsack, a former Iowa governor and longtime biofuels supporter, cited the EPA’s approval in 2022 and 2023 of summer sales of gasoline blends of 15 percent ethanol, fewer waivers from biofuel requirements for refiners than during the Trump administration, and approval of petitions by eight states to sell E15 gasoline blends year-round starting in 2024.

He also noted the administration’s support for biofuels as part of sustainable aviation fuels, a market Vilsack said offers the industry more opportunities.

He said the volume limits set for 2023-2025 are the highest levels ever set by the EPA, which oversees biofuel mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The biofuels industry said the levels represented incremental increases that don’t match production capacity.

Vilsack, who was joined on the call by Minnesota’s Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, said the grants also demonstrated the administration’s financial support for service stations, convenience stores and other businesses to help them meet the cost of equipment or storage to advance distribution of gasoline-ethanol blends of more than 10 percent and petroleum diesel-biodiesel blends of 5 percent or more.

On Monday, he announced $25 million in grants for 59 projects, with Minnesota receiving $8.6 million. The grants cover up to 75 percent of costs with a cap of $5 million for total project costs.

Vilsack said another $450 million in grants will be awarded in $90 million tranches each quarter, with application periods starting July 1, 2023, and going through Sept. 30, 2024. The funding comes from a 2022 budget reconciliation law.

Biofuel groups generally welcomed the announcement.

“This program is instrumental in bringing the benefits of biofuels to drivers around the country who want access to lower-cost fuel that is better for the environment and public health,” said Troy Bredenkamp, the Renewable Fuels Association senior vice president for government and public affairs.

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