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.

On September 19, 2013, in a partisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 217-210 its version of the nutrition portion of the next Farm Bill. All Democrats and 15 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against the bill, which would cut $40 billion from the national food stamp program over the next decade and will almost surely delay final passage of the next five-year Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30.


Historically, the Farm Bill has combined funding for farm and nutrition programs. This summer, by a bi-partisan vote, the Senate passed S. 954, its version of the next five-year Farm Bill that included funding for farm, rural energy, and nutrition programs. It continues funding for Farm Bill energy programs that help encourage biofuels production, and expands coverage to include renewable chemicals. S. 954 would cut only $4 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade.


The House split the farm and nutrition portions of the Farm Bill because in June of this year, it failed to pass a combined bill that would have cut $20 billion from food stamps. At the time, generally, Democrats felt the food stamp cuts were too steep, while Republicans thought they did not go far enough. Over the summer, House leadership opted to split the bill into farm and nutrition only parts, and to get the votes to pass the nutrition portion by answering the Republican call for steeper cuts.


Now that the House has passed both the farm and nutrition portions of the next Farm Bill, it is expected that House leadership will appoint conferees to meet with the already named Senate conferees in an effort to prepare a bill in final that may be passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by the President. No one expects this process will be complete by September 30, but they are hopeful it could happen by the end of the year when farm support will revert back to a 1949 agriculture law. If that happens, there will not be any continuing support for biofuels and renewable chemicals.
 

Tags: Farm Bill

 

Improved utility of data, transparent supply chains, and transformative innovation were just some of the topics discussed by regulators, researchers, and industry at the 3rd Safer Consumer Products Summit: National Policy Outlook held in Washington, D.C. this week. Summit Chair Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C, opened the main summit by noting the dramatic shift in environmental law from the regulation of discharges of chemical substances into the environment (and their subsequent cleanup) to a more proactive focus on the regulation of chemicals in products -- especially consumer products. She then walked the room through the current efforts at TSCA reform, most notably CSIA and gave her insider's analysis of what to expect from Capitol Hill regarding CSIA.


Keynote speaker Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), highlighted the great strides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made in increasing access to data, especially with the debut last week of the ChemView searchable database and the positive impact programs such as Design for the Environment and the Green Chemistry Awards have in stimulating the safer chemical market.


In a luncheon keynote, sponsored by BRAG, the "father of green chemistry" Dr. Paul Anastas, Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale, exhorted the gathered companies, researchers, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to set a goal of transformative innovation rather than incremental improvements: instead of just looking for safer dyes, develop fiber plants that grow in colors; rather than making a small improvement in paint and waterproofing formulations, mimic the action of waterproof plants to achieve the goal.


A panel discussion with safer product groups and brands, moderated by BRAG's Executive Director Kathleen M. Roberts, included spirited exchanges on the perceived value of "green" to consumers, the need for extreme transparency of ingredients throughout the supply chain, and the question of whether NGOs can engage in recognizing and encouraging good corporate actions in addition to their focus on thwarting the bad. Ms. Roberts made the point that BRAG is actively engaged in helping to level the regulatory playing field between petroleum-based products and their greener alternative biobased products.


See BRAG's twitter feed for a running account of salient points from the summit, twitter.com/biobasedpolicy, and contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for copies of the presentations.
 


 

On September 12, 2013, Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 3084, the "Qualifying Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Act," to provide tax parity for the renewable chemical industry in the United States. Along with Representative Pascrell, the original co-sponsors of the bi-partisan bill are Representatives Steve Stockman (R-TX), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and Richard Neal (D-MA).


Essentially, the bill would extend the current production tax credit (PTC) for cellulosic biofuels to producers of renewable chemicals. It would provide a PTC of 15 cents per pound of eligible renewable content, but it caps the benefit at $500 million and a single producer may not receive more than $25 million in a tax year. A copy of the legislation is available online. Representative Pascrell has stated publicly that he hopes the legislation will help incentivize the U.S. production of renewable chemicals and help develop the industry here in the United States.
 


 

On September 16, 2013, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based renewable chemicals company, Metabolix, announced the development of Mvera B5010, which is a compostable film grade resin to be used for global compostable bag and film markets. Mvera B5010 meets international industrial standards for compostability and will be featured during K 2013 in Düsseldorf, Germany, October 16-23, 2013. A copy of Metabolix's press release on the announcement is available online.


 

Unilever announced this week its new partnership with the University of Liverpool for a three-year research project designed to develop renewable chemicals "from the surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes, creating a cent[er] of excellence in the identification of sustainably sourced ingredients that it is hoped will end up in the production of some of the world's most familiar brands." The company's press release on the partnership is available online.


 

On August 26, 2013, bio-isobutanol producer, Gevo, Inc., supported by Coca-Cola and Japanese chemical producer Toray Industries, Inc., held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open its new demonstration-scale paraxylene plant adjacent to Gevo's existing renewable jet fuel plant in Silsbee, Texas. Paraxylene is a key building block to renewable PET beverage bottles and packaging, among other things. Gevo's press release announcing this new facility is available online.


 

Renewable chemicals are emerging at a fast pace, paving the way for new, innovative, and sustainable biobased products. The renewable chemicals’ market is estimated to reach $83.4 billion by 2018 in applications ranging from transportation and agriculture to textiles and cosmetics. In addition to all the elements great companies need to succeed -- a great product, a great brand, inspiring leadership, and vision -- biobased product companies need to understand how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) occupies a virtual seat at their management table, whether or not they know it.  

An article by BRAG in the August 2013 issue of Industrial Biotechnology, available online, lays out the regulatory challenges the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) presents to biobased and renewable chemical products and the rationale behind the formation of BRAG.  Through strategic insight into regulatory and legislative issues, collective advocacy on Capitol Hill and before EPA, education and training opportunities, and hands-on guidance from a deep bench of TSCA legal and scientific policy experts, BRAG is removing obstacles to commercialization for its members.


 

This week, Brazilian biotechnology company GranBio and Solvay Group company Rhodia announced they have signed an agreement to partner to produce bio n-butanol, used to manufacture renewable chemicals and biobased products, including paint. Under the agreement, the companies intend to build the first biomass-based n-butanol plant in Brazil, with operations planned to come online in 2015. The press release is available online.


 

On July 31 and August 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) held its sixth annual "Biomass 2013: How the Advanced Bioindustry is Reshaping American Energy." Over two days, attendees heard from Senators, Representatives, Obama Administration officials, and representatives of industry on the current and future progress of the biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products industries. The Biomass 2013 website, including detailed information on the conference and its program is available online.


During the conference, speakers discussed the immense progress that has been made in just the last few years within the biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products industries, as well as the legislative, financing, and other challenges that still lie ahead. They discussed the benefits that have accompanied the growth of these industries, including the thousands of well-paying jobs created throughout the country, particularly in rural communities. In addition, brief descriptions of some of the key announcements made and stories of success told during the conference further demonstrating the growing progress and maturity of the industry are summarized below.


Industry


INEOS Bio announced that it is now the first company producing cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale at its Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Florida. A copy of this announcement is available online. Algae biofuels producer Sapphire Energy announced that it has paid off its entire United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loan Guarantee under the Biorefinery Assistance Program in the amount of $54.5 million. A copy of this announcement is available online. These two announcements help to reinforce the message that the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industries are real and are progressing toward commercialization, especially with the help of policies including the federal RFS and loan guarantee programs.


Sue Hager, Myriant, discussed how a $50 million cost sharing cooperative agreement from DOE helped the company successfully start up its flagship bio-succinic acid plant located in Lake Providence, Louisiana. A copy of this announcement is available online. Hager reported that Myriant's bio-succinic acid plant is the first of its kind and scale in North America and has an annual nameplate production capacity of 30 million pounds of bio-succinic acid, which can be used to make numerous consumer products, including paints. Hager stressed several policy initiatives that would help promote biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products, including one that would broaden the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) to value biorefineries as real property and passage of the Senate version of the Farm Bill, with mandatory funding for biorefinery assistance.


Industry Representatives


Attendees heard from the heads of all the major biofuels trade associations. They echoed the success and progress that has been made in the last few years and discussed their efforts to advocate on Capitol Hill and within the Administration to ensure continued support to facilitate research, development, and commercialization of the biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products industries. All leaders mentioned the importance of the RFS and the current threat to it led by the refining industry and its supporters.


Policymakers


Several policymakers also presented during the conference touting their support for the U.S. biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products industries. They all remarked on the tough battle industry is facing, as opposition is ramping up against the RFS, federal funding for biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products and other programs designed to promote the industry. USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack reiterated his support for the RFS and encouraged attendees to urge Congress to pass the Senate version of the next Farm Bill, which includes mandatory funding for biofuels, and for the first time broadens eligibility to renewable chemicals and biobased products. In addition, Secretary Vilsack discussed how USDA is working hard to find funding to help industry, especially in light of the budget sequester. For instance, he told the audience how USDA had recently restarted the biobased labeling program after having to pause it due to the sequester. He commended the recent successes of INEOS Bio and Sapphire Energy noted above.


Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) expressed support for the biofuels industry and touted Iowa's renewable energy production, including growth in ethanol plants and wind energy. He mentioned that renewable fuels help reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil. He also asserted his continued support for the federal RFS and called the audience to advocate that: (1) the RFS and biofuels are saving consumers money at the pump; (2) RFS and biofuels are not diverting food to fuel, any such suggestion is "hogwash"; (3) production of corn is at a record high because of biofuels; (4) biofuels are contributing to clean air and clean environment; (5) the RFS is necessary to drive investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels, which have even greater environmental benefits; and (6) the RFS is needed to ensure a level playing field for alternative fuels.


Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) talked about his background as a rancher in California. He expressed his support for industry and made the point that biomass is used for many things beyond biofuels, including renewable chemicals and biobased products. He stressed the importance of these industries and called on the audience to urge policymakers to continue their support. To make his point that such advocacy is needed now more than ever to help protect support for the promotion of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products, Representative Garamendi detailed several provisions in various appropriations bills industry opponents have successfully passed. These provisions include several on which we have reported this year such as those in the House, which passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which would limit DOD's ability to procure and promote advanced drop-in biofuels for military use.


Michael Carr, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) discussed the importance of public-private partnerships and need for continued investment for the ongoing development and commercialization of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products. He made the point that there is much momentum and now is not the time to stop government support. In addition, Dan Utech, Deputy Director for Energy and Climate Change at the White House Domestic Policy Council discussed the President's commitment to take action against climate change. As part of this effort, the Administration recognizes the importance and opportunity of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products.


Valerie Reed, Acting Director, Bioenergy Technologies Office, DOE opened and closed the first day of the conference. She spoke of DOE's commitment to industry and discussed its efforts to help promote development and commercialization, including the renewable carbon fiber initiative and upcoming workshop taking place on September 3, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois on natural gas-biomass to liquids. Reed remarked that DOE workshops and funding opportunities are some of the most important tools DOE uses to get information to industry about potential assistance.


Newly sworn-in DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz spoke on the last day of the conference. The press release detailing his complete remarks is available online. Secretary Moniz described various DOE initiatives to help facilitate further development of renewable chemicals, biobased products, and biofuels. He also announced that DOE is making an investment of more than $22 million in four projects intended to help "develop cost-competitive algae fuels and streamline the biomass feedstock supply for advanced biofuels."


Algae Fuels Investments


Secretary Moniz announced that DOE would invest a total of $16.5 million on the following algae biofuel projects:


Hawaii Bioenergy ($5 million DOE investment): Based in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii Bioenergy will develop a cost-effective photosynthetic open pond system to produce algal oil. The project will also demonstrate preprocessing technologies that reduce energy use and the overall cost of extracting lipids and producing fuel intermediates.

Sapphire Energy ($5 million DOE investment): Headquartered in San Diego, California, Sapphire Energy will develop a new process to produce algae-based fuel that is compatible with existing refineries. The project will also work on improving algae strains and increasing yield through cultivation improvements.

New Mexico State University ($5 million DOE investment): For its project, New Mexico State University will increase the yield of a microalgae, while developing harvesting and cultivation processes that lower costs and support year-round production.

California Polytechnic State University ($1.5 million DOE investment): California Polytechnic State University will conduct research and development work to increase the productivity of algae strains and compare two separate processing technologies. The project will be based at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Delhi, California that has six acres of algae ponds.


Investments in Feedstock Chain for Advanced Biofuels


Secretary Moniz also announced the following nearly $6 million investment:
 

• Project led by Columbus, Ohio-based FDC Enterprises to reduce harvesting, handling, and preprocessing costs across the entire biomass feedstock supply chain. The project will receive a nearly $6 million DOE investment. The FDC Enterprises project will work with independent growers and biofuel companies in Iowa, Kansas, Virginia, and Tennessee -- including POET, ADM, Clariant International, and Pellet Technology USA -- to develop new field equipment, biorefinery conveyor designs and improved preprocessing technologies. The project will also develop and deploy feedstock quality-monitoring tools to reduce sampling and analysis costs, and conduct real-time analysis of feedstock characteristics such as moisture content and particle size.

 

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