U.S. underwrites rural blender pumps for biofuels

WASHINGTON – Small businesses in rural America are eligible for federal aid to install “blender pumps”, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday in a step to broaden the use of ethanol and other biofuels. The pumps can dispense motor fuel that is up to 85 percent biofuel.

The USDA announced a goal last week of installing up to 10,000 of the pumps in five years. There are 167,800 filling stations in the country and 2,350 blender pumps at present.

Ethanol makers say more blender pumps are needed for biofuels to gain a larger share of fuel sales. The government has approved the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol. The standard blend is 10 percent and it is costly to install a pump that dispenses higher blends. [ID:nN08231838]

The USDA said it would provide grants of up to $500,000 for 25 percent of the cost of installing blender pumps and guarantees of up to 75 percent on loans up to $25 million for the pumps.

Aid is limited to businesses in rural areas and cities of fewer than 50,000 people. Applications are due by June 15. Roughly one in five Americans live in a rural area.

The Federal Register announcement of the assistance and details of the Rural Energy for America Program are on the Internet at: link.reuters.com/cym98r

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