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 May 8, 2018, President Trump met with a group of Republican Senators and told them that he is considering allowing exported ethanol to count toward the volumes mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  During this meeting, Mr. Trump also reiterated support for expanding sales of E15, and withdrew his verbal proposal to cap the price of RINs, which had been widely criticized by the ethanol industry. These announcements came after increasing concern about the future stability of the RFS after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted over two dozen hardship waivers to small refineries for 2017, a drastic increase from EPA’s prior practice of granting between six to eight hardship waivers annually.
 
The ethanol industry reacted favorably to some of these proposals, with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), releasing a statement thanking President Trump for rejecting the RIN cap and for his support of year round sales of E15. Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, stated:  “Ensuring that E15 can be sold year round in states and regions where it is already approved will give advanced and cellulosic ethanol more opportunity to compete in the market in coming years. E15 reduces the price of gasoline by 5 to 15 cents per gallon, and it lowers tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions all year round. . . . BIO and its members continue to oppose unnecessary changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA has already provided unwarranted waivers to oil refiners that are destroying demand for all biofuels and undercutting industry investments. We thank Senators Grassley and Ernst for standing with us in opposition to the damaging proposal for a cap on RIN prices.” Mr. Trump’s proposal to allow RINs from exported ethanol to count towards mandated volumes under the RFS was greeted with more caution, with Erickson stating: “We remain concerned about the impact counting RINs from exported renewable fuels would have on the development of advanced biofuels and we look forward to working with the Senators to ensure the RFS continues to promote production and use of homegrown biofuels.” Kevin Skunes, President of the National Corn Growers Association, was also distrustful of this proposal, stating:  “Offering RIN credits, which are supposed to be derived from a domestic renewable fuel use, for ethanol exports would threaten trade markets and impact corn farmers’ economic livelihoods.”

Tags: RFS, E15, RIN

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 3, 2018, the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) announced that it had submitted a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to provide waivers from RFS requirements. Michael McAdams, President of ABFA, stated:

 “We have seen reports that the number of small refinery exemptions recently granted for compliance years 2016 and 2017 have doubled compared to previous years. ABFA members are concerned that Administrator Pruitt is granting these exemptions in an arbitrary and capricious manner to undisclosed parties behind closed doors with no accountability for its decision-making process.”

“The news reports about these exemptions have had immediate and significant market impacts on the prices of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) for the biomass-based diesel (D4) and overall renewable fuel (D6) pools,” continued McAdams. “Dropping RIN prices disincentivize blending, causing economic harm to ABFA’s members and posing a threat to the integrity of the RFS program at large.​

These concerns originated when a large oil refinery, Andeavor, was granted a hardship waiver, which is typically given to small refineries producing less than 75,000 barrels per day that suffer a disproportionate economic hardship from the cost of RFS compliance. For more information, seeOpen Letter From Iowan Biofuel Producers Urges Protection Of RFS” on the BRAG blog.

Tags: EPA, RFS, ABFA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) and Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced a joint multi-topic funding opportunity for $12 million as part of the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. This collaborative research and development effort supports the research of fuel and engine innovation that maximize vehicle performance and fuel efficiency, and is accelerating the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable biofuels and high-efficiency, low-emission vehicle engines. The current funding opportunity will prioritize research projects in the following areas: batteries and electrification; materials; technology integration and energy efficient mobility systems; energy-efficient commercial off-road vehicle technologies; and co-optimized advanced engine and fuel technologies to improve fuel economy. Concept papers are due May 29, 2018, and full applications are due July 13, 2018, through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Exchange website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 3, 2018, DOE’s BETO announced four funding opportunities totaling up to $78 million to support early-stage bioenergy research and development. The Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) include:

  • BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis (up to $28 million);
  • Efficient Carbon Utilization in Algal Systems (up to $15 million);
  • Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower (up to $20 million); and
  • Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops (up to $15 million).


DOE Secretary of Energy Rick Perry stated that through these funding opportunities, “U.S. bioenergy resources, including algae, energy crops, and various waste streams, will be more efficiently and effectively converted into affordable biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts.”  Letters of Intent for these FOAs are due May 30, 2018, and full applications are due June 27, 2018.  More information is available on the BETO Funding Opportunities web page.

Tags: DOE, BETO

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 8, 2018, DOE’s BETO announced that it was sponsoring an Advanced Algal Systems Listening Session in Seattle, Washington on June 13, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is being held in conjunction with the 8th International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels, and Bioproducts,
 
BETO states it is seeking feedback “from experts in algal biology, cultivation, and conversion on how to address early stage research and development barriers and opportunities for cost-competitive algal biofuels and bioproducts,” and the agenda will focus on “opportunities and challenges in integrating algal productivity and biomass yield improvements in scalable algae cultivation systems to achieve high yields.”  The listening session aims to gather stakeholder input about challenges and opportunities related to cultivation strategies for improving productivity and yield; and improving algal biomass value.  Registration and a draft agenda for the listening session can be found on the Algal Biofuels Strategy Workshops web page.

Tags: DOE, Algal

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 9, 2018, DOE announced up to $3 million in funding for advanced biofuels, bioenergy, and biobased products available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). This funding will go to two selected projects, with $1 million going to The University of Tennessee to develop an integrated biorefinery design that combines the production of liquid fuels and renewable chemicals, and $2 million funding a Northwestern University project to develop a rapid synthesis of next generation biofuels and bioproducts from lignocellulosic biomass. Both projects will lower the cost of production for biobased fuels and biochemicals, with a goal of resulting in less than $3 per gallon gasoline equivalent for advanced biofuels.

Tags: DOE, BRDI

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 30, 2018, 18 pro-ethanol Senators sent a bi-partisan letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting a “transparent timeline … on the regulatory pathway forward to address the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) issue,” “an expected timeline of the rulemaking process to clarify how the agency will make this change to allow higher ethanol blends access to the marketplace” and “immediate clarity to allow higher ethanol blends to be sold in the interim while the outdated regulation is being changed” as related to President Trump’s commitment to allow for 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) to be sold year-round and Pruitt’s statements in an EPA budget hearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment regarding EPA’s issuance of a waiver that would allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol.

Tags: EPA, E15, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office has announced that the International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP) will present a webinar titled “Biofuels for the Marine Sector: New Opportunities and New Challengeson May 8, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (EDT) that will “give an overview of the maritime transportation sector, including its fuel and engine types, the fuel supply infrastructure, and the regulations on fuel specifications and [carbon dioxide (CO2)] emissions” and include discussion on the feasibility of current biofuels including their properties and supply.  Participation instructions are available online.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 1, 2018, DOE Secretary Rick Perry announced that up to $68.5 million in funding will be available for early-stage research of advanced vehicle technologies through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  The announcement states that the available funding “will enable more affordable mobility, strengthen domestic energy security, and enhance U.S. economic growth.”  Projects selected through this Vehicle Technologies Office funding opportunity will address the following:

  • Priorities in advanced batteries and electrification, including cyber security related to electric vehicle charging (up to $27 million);
  • Materials for both lighter weight vehicle structures and advanced powertrains (up to $6 million);
  • Technology integration and energy-efficient mobility systems (up to $20 million); and
  • Engines and fuels, including technologies for off-road applications (up to $3.5 million), as well as the co-optimization of engines and fuels (up to $12 million).
Concept papers for this funding opportunity are due May 29, 2018, and full applications will be due July 13, 2018.Information on the application requirements is available on the EERE Exchange website and Grants.gov.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 1, 2018, a new biodiesel requirement went into effect in Minnesota, requiring all diesel fuel sold in the state to contain five percent biodiesel from October to March and 20 percent biodiesel from April to September. This is the last stage of the Biodiesel Content Mandate that has been steadily increasing the minimum content requirement of biodiesel in diesel sold in Minnesota since September 29, 2005, when a two percent blend requirement was introduced. Since then the requirement has increased to five percent on May 1, 2009, and stayed at five percent for the winter months while the summer requirement increased to ten percent on July 1, 2014, and reached the final 20 percent requirement for the summer months this May.  Minnesota originally planned to transition to a ten percent biodiesel blend on May 1, 2012, but concerns about inadequate blending infrastructure delayed implementation. Minnesota’s government is confident that the state is prepared to switch to a 20 percent biodiesel blend, with sufficient fuel and feedstock supply and adequate blending infrastructure. Tom Slunecka, CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Growers, states consumers benefit the most from the B20 mandate, “They’re getting better, cleaner air because biodiesel is in our fuel tanks.  They’re getting the benefit of an industry that was born here in Minnesota.  It’s produced here, it’s consumed here.  So all the taxes stay right here.”


 
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