The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) published its 2017 Annual Report:  User Inspired Science Transforming Lives.  The report provides an overview and examples of the many NIFA-funded research, extension, and education outcomes conducted by a broad range of partners, including academic and science organizations; small business and industry; agencies from all levels of government; and non-governmental organizations.  According to the report, NIFA relies on stakeholder input as a key driver in determining NIFA’s research, education, and extension priorities to ensure that the science that begins in the lab reaches the people who need it.  NIFA’s Bioeconomy, bioenergy, bioproducts science emphasis area supports the expansion of regional production systems for biofuels and bio-based products to foster rural economic development, mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, reduce greenhouse gasses, improve wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improve water quality and food and energy security.  In 2017, NIFA engaged in 27 bioeconomy, bioenergy, bioproducts competitive projects, which accounted for two percent of NIFA’s total competitive project funding.

Tags: USDA, NIFA

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 23, 2018, European Union (EU) ambassadors reached provisional agreements on the waste legislative package published by the European Commission in 2015.  The four legislative proposals include amendments to the:

  • Waste Framework Directive;
  • Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive;
  • Landfill Directive; and
  • End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV)/Batteries/Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directives.

The Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive both acknowledge that biobased and compostable plastics contribute to more efficient waste management and help reduce the impacts of plastic packaging on the environment.  Amendments to the Waste Framework would permit biodegradable and compostable packaging to be collected with biowaste and recycled in industrial composting and anaerobic digestion.  Additionally, the legislation differentiates biodegradable compostable plastics from oxo-degradable plastics, which would not be considered biodegradable.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 6, 2018, a coalition of over 200 companies and trade associations sent a letter to the Agricultural Committee leaders in the House and Senate urging the reauthorization of and stable mandatory funding for the energy title programs in the next Farm Bill reauthorization.  The letter states that the Farm Bill energy title programs have greatly assisted rural America in developing clean, renewable energy, biobased products, and making energy efficiency investments for more than 15 years with an incredibly modest, cost-effective investment.  The less than one tenth of one percent of Farm Bill spending dedicated to the programs has allowed for ag-based entrepreneurs to launch initiatives to generate jobs and economic development in areas such as biogas and advanced biofuels, biopower, biobased products, renewable chemicals, and energy efficiency.  Additionally, the letter provides recommendations for further improving the energy title programs.  For example, the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) could be opened fully to standalone renewable chemical companies; the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) could be enhanced to support a fuller range of important, proven, market-ready technologies; and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) could be effective in continuing to support biomass energy development and sustainably address hazardous fuels reduction efforts in our nation’s forests.


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 25, 2018, the University of Illinois announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $10.6 million grant for the Renewable Oil Generated with Ultra-productive Energycane (ROGUE) project.  The project is a collaborative effort between researchers from the University of Illinois, Brookhaven National Lab, University of Florida, and Mississippi State University.  ROGUE aims to transform sugarcane and Miscanthus into sustainable sources of biodiesel and biojet fuel by engineering the crops to produce oil rather than sugar.  Researchers anticipate that the crops will achieve 20 percent oil content and produce as much as 15 times more biodiesel per unit of land compared to soybeans.  Additionally, ROGUE aims to improve the photosynthetic efficiency of the crops to ensure that the production of energy-dense oil will not lower yields or suppress plant defenses.

Tags: DOE, ROGUE, Biofuel

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 1, 2018, the European Commission announced the approval of a €4.7 billion Italian support scheme for the production and distribution of advanced biofuels, including advanced biomethane, for use in the transport sector.  Under the scheme, producers of advanced biomethane and biofuels will receive a premium to compensate for higher production costs compared to fossil fuels.  The scheme will run from 2018 until 2022 and will be financed by transport fuel retailers who are required to blend a certain percentage of advanced biofuels and biomethane.  According to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, “[t]he scheme will encourage the production and consumption of advanced biofuels in Italy, while limiting distortions of competition.”  Additionally, the measure will help Italy reach its 2020 target for the use of renewable energy in transport under the European Union Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

Tags: EC, Biofuel

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Grow Bioplastics, a University of Tennessee student start-up, a $225,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant.  The funding will support research and development on new biodegradable plastics from lignin.  The biobased plastic will be used for agricultural applications, such as plastic mulch.  Grow Bioplastics’ biodegradable film can be plowed into the soil after each use, offering a solution to the additional labor costs and environmental impact of current nondegradable films.  According to Tony Bova, Grow Bioplastics co-founder and CEO, the “funding will help [Grow Bioplastics] validate the fundamental science behind our lignin-based plastic technology, allow us to hire our first employees here in East Tennessee, and bring us one step closer to realizing our vision for a socially and environmentally driven business model to support a circular economy.”


 
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On March 2, 2018, Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D., Manager of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), presented “Advocating for Commercialization of Biobased Products” at the 2018 Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference (ABLC2018).  Dr. Graham presented as part of the “Federal Perspective & Programs Forum” alongside four other panelists.  Dr. Graham provided an overview of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulation impacting biobased chemicals and the regulatory barriers to the commercialization of such chemicals.  The presentation highlighted issues with the TSCA nomenclature system, as well as the work being done by BRAG to address the obstacles to commercialization and to engage in the implementation of new TSCA. If companies wish to ensure equitable regulations for biobased chemicals and products, they should consider joining BRAG to assist with future engagement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  For a copy of this presentation or for more information on BRAG, please contact Dr. Graham at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
 
On March 1, 2018, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist for Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), presented “New TSCA and Biobased Innovation” at ABLC2018.  Dr. Engler presented as part of the Renewable Chemicals Summit and provided an overview of the impact new TSCA has had on EPA’s review of new chemicals under TSCA Section 5.  Pursuant to new TSCA Section 5, EPA must make an affirmative determination on every new chemical review, which has resulted in significant delays in the review process and increased regulation of new chemicals.  For a copy of this presentation, please contact Dr. Engler at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Tags: ABLC, TSCA

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

During a visit to New Hampshire on February 13, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt provided Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH) a letter announcing EPA's efforts to work towards a carbon-neutral policy for biomass and clarify federal procurement recommendations for responsibly managed forests.  According to Pruitt, EPA recognizes the importance of the forest products industry to the State of New Hampshire and is focused on clarifying regulations that were encumbering the industry.  Following the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, which directs EPA to recognize proactively forest biomass as a renewable agency source and establish policies that reflect its carbon neutrality, a multi-agency effort was initiated between EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a mechanism for federal cooperation and consistency on the use of biomass.  To support this effort, EPA aims to ensure its federal procurement recommendations encompass the broad reach of responsibly managed forests and ensure parity with or deferral to the USDA mandatory purchasing requirements established under the Biopreferred Program.  Additionally, EPA is incorporating into its ongoing review of, and improvement to, Clean Air Act permitting programs a concerted effort to develop a range of options consistent with a carbon-neutral policy for biomass from forests and other lands and sectors.


 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

Researchers at the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are seeking responses to a survey on biorefinery operations.  Yimin Zhang, an environmental engineer at NREL, and Marshall Goldberg, a subcontractor for NREL, developed the brief survey to improve the NREL’s understanding of the next generation biofuel industry and its contribution to the local, state, and national economy.  Industry stakeholders in the planning, construction, or operation stage of a biorefinery are asked to complete the survey by March 8, 2018.  The aggregate data will be used to report the survey results.  Individual responses will not be published.


 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

The DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting an Advanced Algal Systems Listening Session from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. (PDT) on June 13, 2018, in Seattle, Washington.  During the listening session, BETO will seek feedback from experts in algal biology, cultivation, and conversion on ways to address near-term research and development barriers and opportunities for cost-competitive algal biofuels and bioproducts.  The discussion will focus on opportunities and challenges in integrating algal productivity and biomass yield improvements in scalable algae cultivation systems to achieve high yields.
 
The listening session will be preceded by the 8th International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts.  More information, including a detailed agenda and registration, will be available on the DOE website.

Tags: DOE, BETO, Algae

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On February 20, 2018, the European Commission (EC) issued a notice of initiation of an expiry review of antidumping (AD) measures applicable to imports of U.S. bioethanol.  The AD duty that has been in place since 2013 was set to expire on February 23, 2018.  The European Renewable Ethanol Association (e-PURE) petitioned the EC on behalf of producers representing more than 25 percent of the total European Union (EU) bioethanol production to review the AD measures due to the likely recurrence of injury to the EU industry.  E-Pure alleged that the removal of injury was the result of the existence of the AD measures and that an increase of imports at dumped prices from the U.S. would likely lead to a recurrence of injury to the EU industry should the measures be allowed to lapse.  Following its determination that sufficient evidence exists to justify an expiry review, the EC will investigate whether the removal of the AD measures will likely lead to a continuation or recurrence of dumping of U.S. bioethanol.  The investigation will conclude within 15 months.


 

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On February 15, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the release of the Co-Optimization of Engines & Fuels (Co-Optima) report titled Fuel Blendstocks with the Potential to Optimize Future Gasoline Engine Performance (Fuel Blendstocks report), along with the companion report on Efficiency Merit Function for Spark Ignition Engines.  The Fuel Blendstocks report identifies eight blendstocks that have the potential to improve gasoline performance.  The assessment criteria included physical properties, high-level health-impacts, the ability to improve advanced spark-ignition engine efficiency, and the potential to be introduced commercially in the 2025-2030 timeframe.  According to the report, a targeted effort was made to identify fuel components that can be sourced from domestic biomass.  In addition to increasing U.S. energy security and creating jobs in rural America, use of renewable fuel components can provide technical, societal, and environmental benefits.  Part of the Co-Optima objective is focused on developing data on blendstock production, fuel properties, and engine performance to perform a detailed assessment of the benefits of sourcing blendstocks from biomass versus conventional resources, and to identify areas where further research and development are needed.  During the next phase, Co-Optima will validate the potential fuel efficiency improvements through engine testing and will also begin examining fuel efficiency gains in heavy-duty diesel engines.


 
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