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 Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced that it was formally initiating antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia.  The decision follows a petition filed by the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition, as reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition Files Antidumping, Countervailing Duty Petition.”  The National Biodiesel Board and U.S. biodiesel producers also provided testimony to the International Trade Commission (ITC) on April 13, 2017, explaining that Argentine and Indonesian companies are violating trade laws by flooding the U.S. market with dumped and subsidized biodiesel, and how those imports are injuring American manufacturers and workers. 
 
The investigation covers biodiesel in pure form, mixtures containing at least 99 percent biodiesel by volume, and the biodiesel component of mixtures containing less than 99 percent biodiesel.  ITC will issue its preliminary injury determinations by May 8, 2017.  If ITC determines that imports of biodiesel from Argentina and/or Indonesia materially injure or threaten material injury to the domestic industry, the investigation will continue and DOC will announce its preliminary CVD and AD determinations in the summer of 2017.


 

On March 16, 2017, 23 Senators, including Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sent President Trump a bipartisan letter requesting that he maintain the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, the Senators remind Trump that the RFS program was adopted to provide stability for renewable fuel producers and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that, to meet this goal, the point of obligation should be placed on refiners and importers.  Shifting the point of obligation downstream would create little incentive for refiners to produce the necessary blendstocks, which would make downstream entities unable to comply.  The letter outlines the detrimental effects that changing the point of obligation would have on refiners, blenders, marketers and retailers, and states that the proposed changes are broadly opposed by the majority of the transportation fuel market.  The Senators acknowledge Trump’s commitment to the RFS program and state that they look forward to working with Trump to ensure the RFS program continues to aid in job creation and economic growth across the country.


 

On March 2, 2017, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reintroduced the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Reform Act, which aims to guide the debate and reform of the ethanol mandate.  According to Goodlatte, the RFS program failed to lower prices at the pump and resulted in unintended and profound effects on consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, retailers, and the environment.  The RFS Reform Act, which had 42 bipartisan cosponsors, would eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements, place a ten percent cap on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline, require EPA to set cellulosic biofuels targets at levels produced by the industry, and decrease the total volume of renewable fuel content in gasoline sold or introduced into commerce from 2017 through 2022.


 

On March 7, 2017, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition sent a letter to President Trump requesting the Administration’s support for changes to various federal policies to strengthen biofuels production and expand markets for ethanol and other biofuels.  The letter, which was signed by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, specifically highlights the need for the Trump Administration to change the fuel volatility limitations placed on E15, to update corn ethanol’s lifecycle carbon emissions profile to reflect advances in ethanol production technology, and to update the 2014 motor vehicle emission simulator model to prohibit spurious comparisons of high- and low-ethanol emissions factors.  The governors commended Trump on his support of the biofuels industry over the past year and stated that expanding biofuels production is one of the best ways to meet the nation’s energy needs.


 
■  Fuels America, “America’s Biofuel Advocates Reject Effort to Derail Renewable Fuel Standard
 
■   The Hill, “House GOP to Prioritize Ethanol, Pipeline Legislation
 
Premier Jay Wetherill, “State Government to Support Legalisation of Industrial Hemp
 
Oil Price, Biofuels May be the Future of the Aviation Industry
 
Princeton University, Schmidt Fund Awards Go to Projects with Transformative Potential
 
Phys.org, “Biofuel Produced by Microalgae
 
■  VietNamNet, “Challenges in Switch to E5 Biofuel

 
On February 17, 2017, several Republican Senators sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, to confirm their willingness to work with Pruitt to grow the nation’s economy and support American jobs and to request that Pruitt address EPA’s volatility regulation of ethanol fuel blends.  In the letter, the Senators describe the one pound per square inch (psi) waiver that allows gasoline blends containing ten percent ethanol (E10) to be sold during the summer months despite the gasoline volatility requirements in place from June 1 to September 15 under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  The letter requests that Pruitt extend the one psi waiver to higher ethanol blends since the volatility of such blends is lower than E10.  The Senators state that without a waiver, fuels, such as E15, are prohibited from use during the summer months, which discourages retailers from installing infrastructure to distribute fuel alternatives and increases costs for consumers.

 
On February 21, 2017, President Trump sent a letter to the attendees of the National Ethanol Conference to reiterate his commitment to ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  The letter states that Trump and his Administration value the importance of renewable fuels to the nation’s energy strategy and economy.  In the letter, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to working with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and others to reform regulations that impede growth, increase consumer costs, and eliminate jobs without providing sufficient environmental or public health benefit.
Tags: RFS, RFA, Trump

 

On February 13, 2017, seven democratic Senators sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn requesting details on Carl Icahn’s role in the Trump Administration and the extent of his influence over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  On December 21, 2016, it was announced that Mr. Icahn would serve the Trump Administration as a special advisor for overhauling federal regulations.  The Senators’ letter highlights concerns over Icahn’s public statements regarding RFS obligations and his role as chairman of the board and majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises.  The Senators noted that, as of September 30, 2016, Icahn Enterprises owned an 82 percent stake in CVR Energy, which is an oil refiner required to meet the RFS obligations.  The letter requests that McGahn provide answers to a number of questions regarding Icahn, including whether:
 

■  He is a federal employee;
 
■   He has access to confidential information;
 
■  He provided financial disclosures to the Administration;
 
■  He is barred from providing advice on any regulations;
 
■  He provided advice to President Trump on any Senate-confirmed or schedule C appointees;
 
■  The Administration believes he is subject to any laws or regulations governing conflicts of interest;
 
■  He has recused himself from any decisions or discussions that may present a conflict of interest; and
 
■  He is required to divest from any of his holdings.

 

On February 21, 2017, USDA announced in the Federal Register that the comment period for the Designation of Product Categories for Federal Procurement proposed rule had been extended.  The proposed rule aims to amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement to add 12 product categories composed of intermediate ingredient and feedstock materials and to propose a minimum biobased content for each category.  In addition to the product categories and biobased content, USDA is seeking comments on appropriate performance standards for each product category, the positive environmental and human health attributes of biobased products within the proposed categories, and how small businesses may be affected by the proposed rule.  Comments are now due by April 13, 2017.


 

On February 7, 2017, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the U.S. Grains Council sent a joint letter to President Donald Trump to request the Administration’s assistance in addressing China’s recent implementation of protectionist trade barriers, which are shutting out U.S. exports of ethanol and distillers dried grains.  The letter states that China’s actions have significantly injured U.S. ethanol producers and farmers, and undermined the substantial investments made to develop a cooperative and mutually beneficial trade relationship with the country.  In 2015, China imported 6.5 million metric tons of U.S. distillers dried grains, and began importing U.S. ethanol as part of an effort to increase the use of cleaner-burning renewable fuels and reduce smog formation.  By the end of 2016, China had become the U.S. ethanol industry’s third-largest export market.  In September 2016, after a nine month investigation regarding alleged dumping and injury to domestic industries, China imposed a preliminary antidumping duty of 33.8 percent against U.S. distillers dried grains, as well as a countervailing duty of ten to 10.7 percent -- despite the fact that the investigation did not find any evidence of dumping or injury to domestic industries.  The letter states the details of this investigation and the U.S. industries’ cooperation throughout the investigation, and requests that the incoming U.S. Trade Representative place the Chinese trade barriers near the top of the China trade agenda.


 
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