EPA announced that renewable fuels produced from sorghum biomass
could qualify as cellulosic fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This
is a result of a preliminary analysis of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions
resulting from the growth and transport of biomass sorghum feedstocks that are
used to make biofuels. The analysis, which was conducted in response to a
petition from the National Sorghum Producers, assumes that the emissions from
production of biofuels from biomass sorghum are similar to those from
is accepting comments on the analysis until January 30, 2015.
On December 19, 2014, the European Union (EU) Commission called
for comments on EU Emission Trading System Directive revisions. The revisions
include changes to how carbon allowances will be made available to participants
in the EU's emissions trading system after 2020 to reduce GHG emissions by at
least 40 percent in 2030 compared to 1990. The 2030
framework for climate and energy also proposes the use of 400
million carbon allowances to create a fund for renewable energy and carbon
sequestration projects, and the use of two percent of allowances to finance
energy efficiency and energy system upgrades in poorer EU countries. Parties
interested in commenting on the revisions must register and submit input by March 16, 2015.
On October 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released two plans related to climate change. The Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and the Climate Change Adaptation Plan are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for flooding, rising sea levels, and extreme temperatures/weather patterns. These plans come five years after the 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance that set energy, climate, and environmental goals for government agencies. The release of the plans gave Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz an opportunity to outline how the use of clean energy resources, as part of the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, has been implemented within the Department. DOE has increased the number of buildings that achieved federal guiding principles for high performance and sustainable buildings. It has completed a biomass cogeneration facility in South Carolina and an 11.5 megawatt wind farm, both of which serve to reduce the use of non-renewable energy. DOE was also recognized as a 2014 GreenGov Presidential Award Winner for its work with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to produce a five percent reduction in DOT's total fuel consumption, and a 20 percent increase in DOT's use of alternative fuels.
During a summit in Brussels on October 23-24, 2014, European Union (EU) leaders agreed to a blueprint to guide climate and energy policy through 2030. The overall goals of the blueprint are to achieve a 40 percent emissions reduction by 2030, relative to 1990 emissions levels, as well as a target of 27 percent for total energy consumption in the EU being provided by renewable sources by 2030. The EU already has a 20 percent emissions reduction target for 2020. The target is expected to help build and maintain momentum for the larger 2030 emissions goal. Individual countries will not be responsible for the 27 percent renewable energy goal, rather, the EU as a whole wants to reach that level of renewable energy. In order to assist countries in achieving this goal, the EU is increasing the current 300 million Emissions Trading System (ETS) allowances to 400 million to help fund low-carbon innovation. More information about the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework can be found in the EU's post-summit communique.
On August 7, 2014, a group of nine Democratic Senators led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) sent a letter to the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, on the treatment of biogenic carbon emissions from stationary sources. The other eight Senators who signed the letter are: Tim Johnson (D-SD); Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Al Franken (D-MN); Patty Murray (D-WA); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The letter comes at a time when EPA is working to issue in final a rulemaking providing guidelines for such treatment.
In their letter, the Senators caution that treating biogenic carbon emissions in the same way as fossil fuel emissions could negatively impact the development and commercialization of advanced biofuels, biopower, renewable chemicals, and other industrial biotechnologies. They urge EPA to recognize in its treatment of biogenic carbon emissions that "carbon emissions resulting from the utilization of sustainably-sourced, renewable biomass feedstocks do not result in lasting increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and therefore should not be subject to greenhouse gas regulations."
BRAG has previously reported on developments in the biogenic carbon debate. The most recent report is available online.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held its first "listening sessions" this week on its controversial proposed rule to reduce carbon dioxide at existing power plants. BRAG has previously reported on the proposed rule. A copy of the proposed rule is available online.
The listening sessions took place on July 29 and 30, 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia, Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., and will take place on August 1, 2014, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the sessions, EPA heard from a wide range of stakeholders on both sides of the issue, including industry representatives arguing that the proposal would harm the economy, environmental groups stating their support for the rule, and private citizens describing the need for EPA to take action to clean up the air in their states and communities.
On July 15, 2014, Inside EPA reported that "the White House is examining options for reversing EPA's proposed cuts to several renewable fuel standard (RFS) production targets in order to promote biofuels that create fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than conventional fuels, informed sources say, as part of the Obama administration's broader efforts to combat climate change."
The article also quotes sources stating:
"[F]igures under discussion between administration officials and industry representatives include raising the renewable fuel target -- largely met with corn ethanol production -- from 13 billion gallons in the proposed rule to a range of 13.5-13.6 billion gallons in the final rule; increasing the advanced biofuel target from 2.2 billion gallons in the proposed rule to a range of 2.3-2.5 billion gallons; and raising the biomass-based diesel target from 1.28 billion gallons under the proposed rule to 1.5-1.7 billion gallons in the final rule.
"The most dramatic increase under consideration is said to be for cellulosic biofuel, which would rise from 17 million gallons in the proposed rule to 23 million gallons in the final rule, the sources say. "
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday, June 23, 2014, which upheld the authority of EPA to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA), but with limitations. The Court held that EPA may require permits and carbon control efforts for large stationary sources that emit large quantities of carbon dioxide. The emission of certain quantities of other regulated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions -- not carbon dioxide alone -- must trigger the requirements, however. The Court held that EPA went impermissibly beyond its authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the CAA when, under its "Tailoring Rule," the Agency raised the triggering thresholds for carbon dioxide regulation.
The biomass community has been weighing in on EPA efforts to determine how to account for bioenergy emissions under its Tailoring Rule. Despite this week's Supreme Court ruling, there are ongoing efforts to urge EPA to issue in final its biogenic carbon accounting framework for those bioenergy facilities that would trigger permitting and other carbon control requirements based on the levels of emission of regulated GHG emissions other than carbon dioxide. See related item below.
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a pre-publication version of its proposed rule on "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units." This precedent-setting proposal seeks to reduce carbon dioxide from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030.
According to the pre-publication version of the proposed rule, four public hearings will be convened in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Washington, D.C. Comments will be due 120 days following the date the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. A copy of the pre-publication version of the 645-page proposed rule is available online. Fact sheets on the proposal are available online.
Lobbying efforts on the proposal have already begun in earnest. The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), for instance, issued a press release on June 2 calling on EPA to include Carbon Capture and Utilization strategies in its final rule to reduce carbon emissions. A copy of ABO's press release is available online.
This week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP), a collaboration of 13 federal agencies and myriad academia, issued its third National Climate Assessment. The 841 page report and a summary of its highlights are available online.
This report is significant because compared to previous reports it more definitively attributes human activity as the cause of increased climate change, which is causing more severe weather. The report asserts that climate change is here now and will have more and more devastating impacts throughout the country. It is not a future event. Additionally, it more strongly links climate change to severe weather.
The Administration reportedly is hopeful that the report will help motivate action on climate change. It may be working to some extent as two prominent Republicans -- former Utah Governor and Presidential Candidate John Huntsman, and Lee Thomas, an EPA Administrator under the Regan Administration -- authored op-eds published on May 7, 2014, urging Republicans to accept climate change and offer leadership on the issue.