Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack would love to see the ethanol blend rate increased to 15 percent, but right now he would be happy with 12-13 percent.
“Our view is that we can get to 12 to 13 percent by just simply understanding that it’s significantly not much different than 10 percent, it’s an insignificant difference, and under the rules and regulations EPA could do that,” Vilsack said Monday. “If you get to 15 percent or higher, there may be more review required, and we appreciate that. But the help is needed now.”
Vilsack made his comments during a press conference Monday to introduce rural stimulus funding. Of the six questions he was asked by reporters, half of them pertained to increasing the allowable blend rate for ethanol in gasoline, and he repeated his emphasis on the 12-13 percent level three times.
“Right now my focus is on 12 to 13 percent because I think it’s doable more quickly, and it sends, I think, the right set of signals to the industry that we are with them,” the secretary said.
Vilsack also noted that USDA will continue to work with ethanol production facilities in financial difficulty to reconfigure their loans under a rural loan guarantee program. “That could be of some benefit, especially if the bankers are willing to work with us in restructuring the terms so that they are a bit more favorable either in interest rates or payments or principal,” said Vilsack. He stressed that the ethanol industry is still an “infant industry and so it’s going to have some growing pains. It’s going to have some ups and downs. And what we need to do is to provide some degree of stability.”
Listen to all of Vilsack’s ethanol related comments here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/usda/vilsack-ethanol.mp3]