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Boosting ethanol: Recovery after travel restrictions lifted

A flex-fuel pump gives consumers more options at a gas station in Brownstown, Indiana.
A flex-fuel pump gives consumers more options at a gas station in Brownstown, Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — Demand for ethanol is on the mend after a large blow caused by travel restrictions and COVID-19.

Helena Jette, biofuels director at Indiana Corn Marketing Council, gave an update during a webinar.

“We saw stations here in Indiana get down to $1 per gallon, which is unheard of,” she said. “We are on the rise as the state starts to open up and travel restrictions (are lifted).

“We’re happy to see that ethanol demand and prices are increasing. Right now we’re looking a $2.10 average at the pump. The vehicle miles traveled was down 55% in April. This is on the rise.”

In spite of challenges, all of the state’s ethanol plants remain open at approximately 65% production, Jette said.

The ICMC is working to assist retailers across the state in offering E15 and E85.

“There are always new market opportunities here in the state,” Jette said.

“We help with grant funding for these locations who may need a little extra assistance when it comes to equipment updates, marketing or branding assistance, especially if they’ve never offered the fuel at their location and they want to be competitive on the street.

“Casey’s General Store in Indiana is home to about 113 (stations), and that is actually growing. Over the last year and a half, we’ve worked to get 35 new E15 and E85 locations on the market.”

Family Express, which is exclusively in Indiana, has over 40 locations that are offering similar products.

The Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program is the next step for boosting ethanol, Jette said. The program is accepting applications through Aug. 13.

“I’m very pleased that the USDA has supported biofuels and is looking to assist those who are wanting to help build their infrastructure,” Jette said.

“There’s $100 million available — $86 million has been allocated to the ethanol industry, $14 million to the biodiesel industry. We’re working with various retailers on collecting information to apply for this grant.

“It’s a 50% match up to $5 million. The awards will be announced at the end of September.”

Learn more about Indiana ethanol at www.incorn.org/icmc/programs/ethanol.

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