Ag officials release gas station upgrade grants for biofuels

Federal agriculture officials said Thursday they awarded $22 million in grants to gas stations, convenience stores and fuel distribution sites in 14 states to upgrade pumps, fuel lines and storage tanks as part of a program designed to increase the use of higher blends of ethanol fuel and biodiesel.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the grants in several stops on Thursday including two locations in Iowa as part of a $100 million program announced in May to boost biofuels distribution.

The agency said in a statement that the initial funding is expected to increase ethanol demand by nearly 150 million gallons annually. Grants were announced for projects in California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin. USDA said it plans on announcing additional grants in the coming weeks.

Critics called the timing of the distribution of the money an election year ploy to attract rural voters hesitant to support Donald Trump for re-election after trade disputes and biofuels policies hurt ag sales.

“Today we are getting an opportunity to witness one more election stunt from the Trump administration,” said Patty Judge, a Democrat, who once served as lieutenant governor and state agriculture secretary.

Ethanol groups welcomed the help.

“It represents a major milestone in our efforts to ensure more Americans can access cleaner and more affordable ethanol-blended fuel,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a biofuels trade group.