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 August 24, 2018, researchers from the University of Kent, UK, published a study on a new technique developed to use bacteria as cell factories to produce biofuels. Working in partnership with scientists from University College London, the University of Bristol, and Queen Mary University of London, Matthew J. Lee et al., uncovered a biotechnical approach to redesign bacterial structures called organelles. The latter, also known as bacterial microcompartments (BMC), carries out metabolic pathways through chemical reactions in the cell. Although these reactions are difficult to control, the University of Kent researchers discovered how to target new metabolic pathways to the BMCs. This technique opens the possibility of using BMCs in a wide variety of applications, which include the generation of biofuels and vaccines through synthetic biology.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 23, 2018, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and 37 others submitted a bipartisan letter, asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as proposed by EPA in June 2018. Under the aforementioned proposed RFS, EPA would raise the advanced biofuel volume for 2019 to 4.88 billion gallons and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2020 to 2.43 billion gallons. The bipartisan group argues that although these increases may be promising, the potential of biodiesel is still taken too lightly. Not only does the biodiesel industry have prodigious growth potential, its expansion would significantly generate jobs in the U.S. In particular, the Senators emphasized the need to also recognize small refiners’ economic hardship exemptions during the 2019 compliance year.

Tags: Senate, RFS, EPA

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

In a research study conducted at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences, a team of scientists has uncovered how to refine seawater to produce bioethanol. When fermented, marine yeast of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae AZ65 strain and yeast extract peptone dextrose (YPD) aid in the production of biofuels. Not only is this discovery key in the development of renewable energy sources, but it also reduces the water footprint of ethanol. Through the use of seawater, the traditional biorefinery methods that rely on agriculture and freshwater become obsolete and limit further depletion of the existing freshwater supplies. Additionally, this new method for biofuel production creates greater opportunities for individual countries to become more sustainable as they switch into biofuel production.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

At Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Dominik Kopp, a Ph.D. student, has developed a method for turning coffee waste into biodegradable plastic coffee cups. Because of its properties, sugars are an efficient source that is often converted into biobased chemicals. According to this study, coffee grounds consist of 50 percent sugars that can be converted into lactic acid. Once this is done, lactic acid can be used to produce biodegradable plastics. “You could use such plastics to make anything from plastic coffee cups to yoghurt containers to compost bags to sutures in medicine,” Kopp highlights.


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 1, 2018, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for its delay in the establishment of a national mandatory bioengineered (BE) food disclosure standard. In its lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that AMS’ failure to implement a final rule is “inimical to the democratic process” and damaging to the public and stakeholders. On May 4, 2018, USDA announced a request for comments on the proposed new rule under the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 on the establishment of a national mandatory BE food disclosure standard. The proposed rule would require food manufacturers and labelers to unveil information to consumers about BE foods. The notice also included a request for comments on AMS’ intent to request approval by the Office of Management and Budget for information collection on the proposed BE disclosure standard. Comments on this proposed rule were due on July 3, 2018, with a final ruling to be made on or before July 29, 2018, according to the 2016 Public Law 114-216. AMS received over 14,000 comments out of which USDA staff claim to still be sorting through, meaning a final ruling has not yet been made and many entities are not happy about this.

Tags: USDA, BE, GE

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set renewable fuel percentage standards annually. On July 10, 2018, EPA announced a request for comments on a proposed rule to address “volume requirements for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that are below the statutory volume targets.” The proposal also included the applicable volume of diesel from biomass for 2020. In response to EPA’s request, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, submitted comments to EPA on August 17, 2018. BIO emphasized in its comments the vitality of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Arguing that the proposed rule promulgates a risk to the biofuels industry and rural economy, BIO urged EPA to resolve the issues that may be caused by raising the volumes of advanced and cellulosic biofuel. Among these issues, the undercut to these increases in volume by the issuance of small refinery exemptions would stop the reallocation of gallons to other obligated parties.

Tags: BIO, EPA, CAA, RFS, Biofuel

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

Researchers from the University of British Columbia, in Canada, have discovered a new technique that can be used to transform “fatbergs” into green fuel. What scientists now refer to as “fatbergs” consist of oils and greases that cause blockages in the sewer systems accumulating disposed solids. These Canadian scientists revealed a new method in which “fatbergs” can be recycled into green fuel within the sewer system through a microwave-enhanced advanced oxidation process using hydrogen peroxide and bacteria. The University of British Columbia team is now conducting pilot tests within sewage treatment plants and plans to have a full-scale system within the next two years.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 17, 2018, researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its progress in accelerating the process of biofuel-making. Through the use of biotechnology, their research demonstrates that an enzyme, glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (GPAT) from the red algae Cyanidioschyzon merolae, can contribute to the biofuel production process. Algae is often used to produce biofuels because it contains high amounts of triacyglycerols (TAG) under certain conditions, which can be converted into biodiesel. Using Cyanidioschyzon merolae as a control strain, researchers at Tokyo Tech discovered that the reactions catalyzed by GPAT presence in this single-celled red algae “is a rate-limiting step for TAG synthesis […] and would be a potential target for improvement of TAG productivity in microalgae,” accelerating biofuel production.


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration’s Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gregory J. Sheehan, reversed an Obama era 2014 policy on the use of biotechnology on wildlife refuges. On July 17, 2014, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum prohibiting the use of genetically modified biotechnology crops to feed wildlife and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in agricultural practices. This ban was issued in response to lawsuits that claimed the use of toxic pesticides and genetically engineered crops violated environmental laws. The 2014 memorandum declared that the use of these products should be phased out by 2016. In his 2018 memorandum, Sheehan argued that genetically modified crops and bee-killing pesticides are necessary to promulgate maximum production of farming practices in refuges.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service publicized two application cycles for applications for funds available under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (BAP). The loans under the aforementioned program are designed to encourage the proliferation of biobased practices that use “technologically new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products, on a commercial scale.” Applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on October 1, 2018, or during the second application cycle, by 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 1, 2019.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

Researchers in Lithuania and Egypt have discovered how to use N, N-dimethylcyclohexylamine (DMCHA) to break down multilayer flexible packaging (MFP) that pose a threat to the environment. MFP is used in making blister pill packages, candy wrappers, chip packets, and related products, and can contain aluminum, among other toxic substances, which when leaked or incinerated is hazardous to the environment. Although some practices exist to separate the multilayered packaging through recycling technologies, the European Union (EU), for example, limits practices based on energy consumption, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, recycling rate, and sustainability. Combined, these limitations allow for a rate of less than 66 percent of MFPs. This new method, however, allows for recycling rates above 99 percent.

The technology developed separates each layer from one another by using DMCHA and other switchable hydrophilicity solvents (SHS) in an ultrasonic treatment to accelerate the process. Once separation of the layers has occurred, the dissolved plastic materials can be recovered without heating, avoiding CO2 production. For further details on the study, click here.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 13, 2018, France’s Secretary of State to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson, announced during an interview a new plan to charge ten percent more for packaged products that do not use recycled plastic in 2019. France aims to transition 100 percent of its packaging use into recyclable plastic by 2025. With this goal in mind, the French government will be introducing a number of measures to promote recyclable packaging. Some of which include an increase on taxes for burying trash in landfills and banning substitutable plastic products, among others.


 
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