On November 8, 2013, Heather Zichal, a longtime Obama Administration official and President Obama's top energy and environment advisor since 2011, left her position to pursue other opportunities. Zichal's next steps are not publicly known.
Zichal, a former Capitol Hill staffer, was an important supporter within the Administration of policies, including the RFS, designed to support the development and commercialization of biofuels and renewable chemicals. She will be replaced by her former deputy, Dan Utech, who is also a former Capitol Hill staffer. Utech will continue Zichal's work, including seeing the President's Climate Action Plan move forward.
Dyadic International, Inc. (Dyadic) has been issued a U.S. patent covering, among other things, methods of developing and producing novel enzymes, encoding nucleic acid molecules for those enzymes, and methods to convert lignocellulosic biomass into fermentable sugars with enzymes that degrade the lignocellulosic material and novel combinations of enzymes, including those that provide a synergistic release of sugars from plant biomass. Dyadic is a global biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development, manufacture, and sale of enzymes and other proteins for the bioenergy, biobased chemical, biopharmaceutical, and industrial enzyme industries. A copy of the company's press release announcing the new patent may be found online.
In the past week, three significant letters have been sent to conferees charged with preparing in final the next five-year Farm Bill urging them to include an Energy Title that supports biofuel and renewable chemical development and production.
On November 1, 2013, 30 bi-partisan Members of Congress sent a letter to the leaders of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry urging Farm Bill conferees to include and make necessary investments in an Energy Title. The letter stresses the importance of this support for renewable energy to the nation and its rural economies. In particular, the letter urges continued support for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). A copy of the letter is available online.
On November 4, 2013, 14 bi-partisan Senators sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee urging Farm Bill conferees to include an Energy Title as passed by the Senate earlier this year, which would include $900 million in mandatory funding and support for biofuels and expanded support for renewable chemicals. In particular, the letter stresses the importance of the REAP, BAP, and BCAP programs, as well as the Biobased Markets Program. A copy of the letter is available online.
Also, on November 4, 2013, over 130 organizations signed a letter sent to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees similar to the one sent by the 14 Senators described above. A copy of the letter is available online.
On October 30, 2013, the Conference Committee selected to merge the House and Senate versions of the next five-year Farm Bill met to begin formal negotiations. This Farm Bill Conference Committee is comprised of 41 bi-partisan Members of the U.S. House and Senate.
Though Farm Bill Conference Committee negotiations are expected to be difficult, pressure is on Members of Congress to pass a final version of the next five-year bill by the end of this year. If it fails to do so, farm policy will be governed by an outdated supply-side permanent law from 1949. In that situation, milk prices would be expected to increase sharply, among other things. In addition, the old law includes nothing to cover or help promote renewable energy, including biofuels and renewable chemicals.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the next five-year Farm Bill, S. 954, including funding for farm, nutrition, and energy programs. Importantly, the Senate bill continues and provides mandatory funding for existing Farm Bill energy programs and extends eligibility to renewable chemicals. It includes $4 billion in cuts to nutrition programs. After failing to pass a combined bill, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a "farm-only" bill this summer and then a separate "nutrition-only" bill cutting $40 billion in food stamps. The House farm-only Farm Bill contains an energy title without mandatory funding that will instead be subject to annual appropriations, and it does not extend the energy programs to renewable chemicals.
The biofuels and renewable chemicals industries continue efforts to gain support for an energy title that would support their development and include mandatory funding in the final version of the next Farm Bill.
On October 29, 2013, hundreds of parents and children participated in a "stroller brigade" on Capitol Hill during which they lobbied Senate offices to provide greater protections against harmful chemicals during reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The stroller brigade also joined actress Jennifer Beals at a press conference on TSCA reform sponsored by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition.
Following the July 31, 2013, Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on TSCA reform, Committee Members reportedly continue negotiations on S. 1009, the bi-partisan TSCA reform bill sponsored by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG™) previous report on the bill and hearing is available online.
Also on October 29, 2013, the Center for Progressive Reform released a report critical of TSCA and the two current Senate bills designed to reform it, S. 1009 and S. 696, which is sponsored by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). The report, "TSCA Reform: Preserving Tort and Regulatory Approaches," makes several specific recommendations for reform, including making it easier for EPA to obtain toxicity data from chemical manufacturers. A copy of the report is available online.
The number of Significant New Use Rules (SNUR) issued by EPA has greatly increased in recent months, causing long and costly delays for companies trying to market biobased chemicals and products. The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) is holding a workshop to help companies avoid these delays by explaining how, when, and to which entity or entities in the value chain the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) applies, and what a renewable chemical innovator must do to comply with TSCA's requirements.
Getting to Yes: A Focused Workshop Addressing Key Policy, Legislative, and Regulatory Issues in Commercializing Biobased Products
Presented by the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group in conjunction with the Society for the Commercial Development of Industrial Biotechnology
2:30-5:30 p.m., November 11, 2013, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Center in Philadelphia, PA
Innovation is great, but commercializing innovations is even better. BRAG's Washington, D.C.-based team of government affairs experts, scientists, lawyers, and public policy managers will present a workshop to identify and discuss critical policy, legislative, and regulatory issues impacting the commercialization of renewable chemicals. Attendees will engage in focused discussions on current regulatory issues impacting the market, as well as a robust dialogue on expectations for the evolution of policy considerations from varied players, including those from academia, environmental groups, Capitol Hill, and EPA.
Join us at the beautiful Chemical Heritage Foundation's Library, Museum, and Conference Center in Philadelphia's historic district for this essential workshop prior to the 2nd International SCD-iBIO Commercializing Global Green Forum. For more information and to register click here.
Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc., a high-growth specialty chemicals company headquartered in Woodridge, Illinois, has announced the authorization of the next stage of its second world-scale biorefinery in Nachez, Mississippi. The Company also has a joint venture biorefinery with Wilmar International Limited located in Gresik, Indonesia.
Both commercial scale biorefineries are based on Elevance's proprietary metathesis technology. According to the Company's press release, the Nachez biorefinery will produce novel specialty chemicals, including multifunctional esters such as 9-decenoic methyl ester; a unique distribution of biobased alpha and internal olefins, including decene; and a premium mixture of oleochemicals. It will have a capacity of 280,000 MT (approximately 617 million pounds).
The high-value performance specialty chemicals, olefins and oleochemicals, produced at the Company's biorefineries will be used in personal care products, detergents and cleaners, lubricants and additives, engineered polymers, and other specialty chemicals markets.
The biorefineries produce Inherent™ renewable building blocks, including renewable C10+ olefins and high-value, di-functional specialty chemicals with superior functional attributes, that were previously unavailable commercially until now. These molecules combine the functional attributes of an olefin, typical of petrochemicals, and a mono-functional ester or acid, typical of biobased oleochemicals, into a single molecule. According to the press release, Inherent™ specialty chemicals enable detergents to be more concentrated and clean better in cold water; improved solvency for better hard surface cleaners; lubricant base oils with improved stability and fuel economy; and unique monomers for biobased polymers and engineered plastics, including long chain polyamides, polyurethanes, and polyesters.
For more information, a copy of the Company's press release is available online.
On October 14, 2013, Target announced a new Sustainable Product Standard (SPS). Under the SPS, Target will rate products on ingredient stability, transparency, and overall environmental impact. The ingredient category makes up half of the overall rating. Products will not be given a favorable ingredient score if they include substances listed on a hazard list or if they include "potentially high-hazard generic ingredients." More information on the new SPS is available online.
On Monday, October 7, 2013, the White House announced that Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change, will be leaving her post in the coming weeks. Zichal has been advising the President on these issues for the past five years and is considered a friend to the biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products industries. For instance, she has been a strong proponent of maintaining the federal RFS and encouraging investment in biofuels. This year, Zichal helped lead the effort to roll out the President's comprehensive Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is no word on who will replace Zichal.
On October 2, 2013, Royal DSM announced that it has partnered with Minnesota-based PlastiComp, Inc. to develop biobased Long Fiber Thermoplastic (LFT) composite materials for the automotive and other markets. A copy of DSM's press release is available online.