IARN — Those in the biofuels industry are saluting the first round of payments under the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program, which expands access to higher blends of fuel for consumers.

In October, the US Department of Agriculture awarded the first round of HBIIP payments to help provide funds for fuel retailers to upgrade equipment to dispense higher blends of biofuels. Growth Energy officials believe this program will allow US retailers to expand their offerings to American consumers. Chris Bliley is Growth Energy’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

“For a retailer, this offers consumers more choice at the pump for higher blends,” said Bliley. “They can go in and get Unleaded-88 or E15 for 3-10 cents per gallon less than regular fuel. Generally, the retailers we work with are offering E15 at every pump location, so there isn’t an issue with having to go to a specific pump or having to wait for a specific pump.”

Bliley says finding ways to increase demand is good for companies, and that the first round of payments came at a critical time for biofuels producers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Clearly, we’ve come back a long ways from the very low points in April and May, but we’re still down 10%, give or take,” said Bliley. “A number of plants have gone into specialty things like hand sanitizer and really answered the call of first responders and their communities in need on the hand sanitizer and disinfectant front. With the higher blends, it will take a while to get this infrastructure into the ground, but ultimately, that’s more demand. That’s more demand for the local plants and more demand for the local farmers as well.”

Under the terms of the program, retailers who apply for grants must match up to 50% of the project cost to be eligible.