U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced plans to boost the number of flex-fuel pumps capable of dispensing gas blended with higher concentrations of ethanol. “Today, there are more than 8 million so-called flexible fuel vehicles, cars and trucks that run on a mixture of gas and 85-percent ethanol. Many folks who own these vehicles may have a difficult time accessing the necessary fuel,” Vilsack said in a Friday afternoon teleconference with reporters. “That’s why we want to make an announcement that is designed to, over time, reduce the lack of access to the fuel itself.”
Iowa is the nation’s top ethanol producing state with 41 plants producing nearly 3.7 billion gallons annually. There are roughly 110,000 gas stations in the U.S., but only 2,300 have flex-fuel pumps to dispense E85. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, says the goal is to add at least 10,000 flex-fuel pumps across the country over the next five years.
The plan involves the government offering financial incentives for gas stations to install the pumps. “It’s going to allow us at USDA to provide grants and loan guarantees, for the first time, to folks at convenience stores, gas stations and petroleum marketers who are wishing to install flexible fuel pumps,” Vilsack said.
E85 sales in Iowa increased 43% between 2009 and 2010 with Iowa retailers selling more than 9.3 million gallons of the fuel last year. Iowa currently has 138 retail outlets offering E85.