EPA is vigorously questioning results of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded study that concludes ethanol produced from crop residues such as corn stover can have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional gasoline, arguing that the findings are based on an "extremely unlikely scenario" of unsubstantiated agricultural practices. RFA is also highly critical of the new study, claiming its "methodology is fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect." RFA made available a useful fact sheet that is available online.
The DOE-funded study was published on April 20, 2014, in Nature Climate Change. The study claims to demonstrate that ethanol produced from corn stover and other crop residues does not meet EPA's criteria for achieving a 60 percent GHG emission reduction compared to gasoline in order for the fuels to qualify under the RFS. The study could raise questions over EPA's ability to raise the cellulosic target in the final version of the 2014 RFS, especially if the fuel's GHGs disqualify them under the program.
EPA is also refuting the study as hypothetical, and lacking a firm basis in current agriculture practices. An EPA spokeswoman reportedly stated the "paper is based on a hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested; an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices." More information is available online.
A newly released analysis on the global chemical industry is predicting strong growth for the biobased sector. Consistent with findings released recently from Lux Research and RnR Market Research, Frost & Sullivan's analysis from "Scorecard for the Global Chemicals Industry" reports that the share of biobased chemicals is expected to grow to about 15 to 18 percent of global chemical sales by 2025. As new feedstock supplies and greener processes begin to shape the new chemicals ecosystem, chemical manufacturers are focused on various strategies such as the development of integrated value chains, innovation and technology management, and chemical recycling to name a few, to ensure growth and sustainability.
Awards recognizing innovative applications and markets in the European biobased chemicals and materials industry were handed out at the 7th International Conference on Biobased Materials in Cologne, Germany, on April 10, 2014. First prize went to Qmilch Deutschland GmbH (DE) for Qmilk, a biopolymer fiber made from milk protein. The full list of winners is available online.
The Environmental Law Institute's (ELI) May/June 2014 issue of ELI Forum features articles from five notable experts representing government, industry, and policy viewpoints on the issue of TSCA reform. Titled "TSCA Redux: Rejuvenating a Timeworn Statute," the publication includes Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner of B&C; Richard A. Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund; Kathy Kinsey, Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs and Operations, Maryland Department of the Environment; Ann R. Klee, Vice President, Environment, Health & Safety, General Electric; Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy; and Senator Tom Udall, Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health. More information is available at www.eli.org.
On April 22, 2014, Shimkus, Chair of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, announced that the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on April 29, 2014, to review a revised draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA). According to Shimkus, the revised draft "reflects suggestions from members on both sides of the aisle, as well as stakeholders and the administration." CICA would reform TSCA. More information regarding the hearing, as well as both the revised draft CICA and a redline comparison to the March 2014 discussion draft, is available online. Memoranda regarding TSCA reform legislation and hearings held to date are available online. B&C's detailed discussion of revisions to the draft CICA is available online.
On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would provide up to $10 million to promote the production of "advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks, and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as agricultural residues and woody biomass." For more information, and to apply for this opportunity, please visit DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website. A copy of the press release is available online.
On April 10, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its strategic plan through 2018. A copy of the plan is available online. It includes statements by EPA reinforcing its commitment to enhancing implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the next four years.
In the 99-page document, EPA reiterates its position supporting enhancing TSCA. To that end, EPA stresses that "[p]otential legislative action to reauthorize TSCA is both a key external factor and a key emerging issue. Consistent with the Administration's essential principles, EPA's authority under TSCA should be modernized and strengthened to increase confidence that chemicals used in commerce are safe and do not endanger public health and welfare."
In its strategic plan, EPA also states that it intends to continue to work to "streamline" the implementation of the federal RFS, "including the annual standard-setting process and new fuel pathway approvals." The Agency also asserts that it "will also strengthen its oversight of industry compliance with RFS standards and core fuels and fuels additive registration mandates through a voluntary third-party quality assurance program to verify that renewable identification numbers (RINs) have been validly generated. In addition, proposed modifications to the exporter provisions of the RFS program will help to ensure that an appropriate number and type of RINs are retired whenever renewable fuel is exported."
On April 11, 2014, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to place a hold on their challenge to EPA's 2013 RFS final rule until EPA completes its reconsideration of the rule. EPA joined in the motion.
Just days earlier, on Monday, April 7, 2014, the parties to the litigation challenging EPA's 2013 final RFS rule, including API, AFPM, and EPA, were in court arguing the merits of the case. The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG™) coverage of these oral arguments is available online.
API, AFPM, and ExxonMobil urged EPA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to eliminate the ability of biodiesel producers to sever RINs from batches of fuels produced as part of an upcoming final rule establishing a quality assurance program for the fuels credit market.
The rule, as proposed, would establish qualifications for third-party auditors who would determine the validity of the RINs. It would also establish audit procedures for renewable fuel production facilities, including minimum frequency, site visits, review of records, and reporting requirements. The rule is open for comment now, and EPA is requesting feedback on whether renewable fuel producers should be allowed to separate and sell their own RINs. The groups emphasized that allowing biodiesel producers to separate and sell fuel credits creates opportunities for fraud in the RIN market.
Biodiesel producers are authorized to sever RINs from fuel batches and sell them as credits to comply with the annual RFS blending mandates. This generates two revenue streams -- one from fuel sales, and another from RIN credit sales. This anomaly resulted from a settlement between 30 refiners and other companies and EPA in April 2013, where $3.65 million was paid to EPA in penalties for purchase of fraudulent credits. The National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Energy Group emphasized that "[t]he biodiesel marketplace is not as mature as other biofuel markets" and "often the value of the RIN provides biodiesel producers with [their] only opportunity to create a margin."
On April 11, 2014, Barnhardt Manufacturing Company (Barnhardt) announced that its HyDri™ Cotton product has earned a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product label under the Department's BioPreferred Program. Barnhardt's press release on the announcement is available online. USDA's description of the meaning of a USDA Certified Biobased Product label is available online.