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.

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 5, 2019, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) announced that their researchers have 3D printed live cells that are able to convert glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide gas.  The substance produced from this conversion resembles beer.  This means that this newly developed technology can lead to highly efficient biocatalysis.  According to LLNL’s announcement, the use of live microbes rather than inorganic catalysts is advantageous because of mild reaction conditions, low cost, self-regeneration, and catalytic specificity.  The particular case study used to demonstrate this experiment’s success involved printing freeze-dried live biocatalytic yeast cells into porous 3D structures.  These unique geometrical structures allow the live cells to then convert glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide gas.  The long-term viability and tunable cell densities of this new bio-ink material allow for the live cells to be genetically modified for the production of chemicals, food, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels.


 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced $51.5 million for innovative research of technologies for trucks, off-road vehicles, and fuels.  Of particular interest to DOE EERE are:

  • Gaseous fuels research, including natural gas, biopower, and hydrogen;
  • Heavy duty freight electrification;
  • Hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell technologies for heavy duty applications; and
  • Energy efficient off-road vehicles.

There are five topic areas for this funding opportunity, and concept papers are due March 29, 2019.  Full applications are due by May 15, 2019.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 4, 2019, DOE announced an opportunity for funding up to $31 million in support of advancing the H2@Scale concept.  The H2@Scale concept focuses on enabling affordable and reliable large-scale hydrogen generation across multiple sectors in the U.S.  Large-scale hydrogen generation, transport, storage, and utilization can “unite our Nation’s abundant energy resources,” according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.  By producing hydrogen when power generation exceeds load, “electrolyzers can reduce curtailment of renewables and contributes to grid stability.”  Hydrogen can also be stored and distributed for multiple applications.  Currently some key challenges of the H2@Scale concept are reliability, affordability, and performance of fuel cell technologies.  DOE is interested in overcoming these challenges, thus providing this funding opportunity for three topics.  Topics include advanced hydrogen storage and infrastructure research and development (R&D); innovative production and utilization concepts; and a H2@Scale pilot.  Concept papers are due on April 8, 2019, and full applications are due on May 29, 2019.

Tags: H2@Scale, DOE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

In honor of Women’s History Month (March), DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) will be celebrating women working on bioenergy R&D projects at DOE’s national laboratories. Each week of March, BETO will highlight the contributions that these women make to strengthen the U.S. bioeconomy.  Activities include the promotion of female scientists and administrators that power BETO-funded bioenergy research on social media and a webinar titled “Women’s History Month/Women-in-Algae.”  The webinar is scheduled for March 14, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) and will focus on DOE algae research and career opportunities.

Tags: DOE, BETO, Algae

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 28, 2019, DOE announced that scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been working on molecular tools that reside naturally within microbial cells.  Microbes typically use these tools to carry out their metabolism and other life-sustaining processes; LANL researchers, however, have been using the tools to produce fuel precursors and bioproduct building blocks.  With the addition of a biosensor in the microbes, light allows the scientists to learn how efficiently the product is being made and thus enabling more efficient quality control to increase overall yield.  This technology is called LANL’s Smart Microbial Cell Technology and consists of a high throughput screening for enzyme discovery, design, and evolution.  It allows LANL to engineer custom biosensors that detect intracellular concentrations of a specific precursor.  This biosensor technology can, thus, be adapted to a single enzyme, pathway, or even global optimization of an industrial strain.  The work is being led by Taraka Dale, Remash Jha, and, Niju Narayanan at LANL, under the Agile BioFoundry multinational laboratory effort to expedite biomanufacturing processes.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 21, 2019, scientists Abdon Pena-Francesh and Melik C. Demirel, at Pennsylvania State University, published an article on the use of squid teeth tandem repeat proteins that can be functionally used for biodegradable fibers and films.  The flexible and tough material results from a protein present in the squid teeth, which can be grown biosynthetically by E. coli bacteria.  This biosynthetic expression of squid teeth proteins presents a number of advantages over direct extraction from the natural source.  It is a sustainable, controllable, and industrially scalable manner of producing these biobased fibers and films.  Currently labeled as “smart textiles,” these fibers and films are capable of autonomous self-healing.  Because of their biocompatibility and self-healing properties, the squid teeth films are applicable not only to clothing textiles, but also in biomedical implants.


 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 22, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice of a proposed partial consent decree in Sierra Club v. Pruitt.  This notice is in response to a complaint filed by the Sierra Club in October 2017 to the District of Columbia Court.  The complaint alleged that former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “failed to perform a non-discretionary duty to assess and report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the Energy Independence Security Act’s (EISA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.”  The complaint also alleged that Pruitt failed to complete the required anti-backsliding study to determine if RFS program fuels adversely impact air quality.  Concerned about Pruitt’s failure to promulgate fuel regulations to prevent potential adverse impacts, the Sierra Club also criticized the former Administrator’s determination that such regulatory measures were even necessary.
 
In response to these complaints, EPA is now proposing a partial consent decree which would establish a deadline for anti-backsliding studies.  EPA is now accepting written comments on the proposed partial consent decree, which must be submitted by March 25, 2019.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 15, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a bill originally introduced in early 2017 by Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (2019 Appropriations Act). Of interest to stakeholders in the biobased sector is Section 428, which covers policies relating to biomass energy.  In this section, responsibilities assigned to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Agriculture, and EPA Administrator are outlined in support of the key role forests play in addressing U.S. energy needs.  Among these responsibilities are the establishment of clear and simple policies for forest biomass solutions to the U.S. carbon footprint and the encouragement of private investment throughout the forest biomass supply chain.  Government stakeholders should be consistent across all federal departments and agencies and recognize the full benefits of the use of forest biomass for energy, conservation, and responsible forest management.


 
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