On May 11, 2015, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced S. 1282 -- a bill to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require the Secretary of Energy to consider the objective of improving the conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced from fossil fuels in carrying out research and development (R&D) programs under that Act. The bill represents a broad recognition of the importance of algae and other biobased carbon utilization platforms that can convert CO2 into fuels, chemicals, and other valuable biobased products. If passed, S. 1282 will add "improving the conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels" to the list of Department of Energy (DOE) fossil energy R&D objectives under Section 961(a) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. § 16291(a)).
In a May 8, 2015, letter, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) requested that EPA reconsider its decision to treat biomass as having zero emissions under the proposed Clean Power Plan (Plan). The Senators point out "wood-burning power plants emit around 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour," and would not assist in achieving the carbon reductions intended by the Plan. The letter also states: "The EPA should not approve biomass combustion as a compliance method under the Plan until the agency has a method in place to account for facility-level emissions and a means of ensuring that emissions offsetting actually occurs in an appropriate timeframe."
On April 28, 2015, the European Parliament approved a draft law restricting crop-based biofuels in order to encourage production of advanced biofuels with low-risk ILUC and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The law, that was discussed in the April 23, 2015, Biobased and Renewable Products Update, applies to legislation requiring EU Member States ensure that at least 10 percent of energy used in transport by 2020 is renewable. Under the new law, no more than 7 percent of energy consumption by 2020 can be first-generation biofuels, resulting in at least 3 percent of energy consumption coming from advanced biofuel. The law also requires the reporting of GHG emissions caused by ILUC and the publication of data on ILUC-related emissions. Member States have until 2017 to enact the legislation.
On April 24, 2015, EPA released a Federal Register notice inviting comment on analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced during the production and transport of Brassica carinata (carinata) oil feedstock for use in the production of biofuels. The plant is not used for food in the U.S., and has high concentrations of erucic acid, making it attractive for use in biolubricants and biopolymers, as well as biofuels. EPA anticipates that biofuels produced using carinata oil will qualify as advanced biofuels, and the analysis will be used to determine if the biofuels will meet necessary GHG reductions required for qualification as renewable fuel under the RFS program. The notice is open for comment until May 26, 2015.
On April 3, 2015, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) held a
Public Workshop to discuss updates to the California-Modified
Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation
(CA-GREET) Model, version 2.0, under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard
(LCFS). The update includes improved formulas to calculate Indirect Land Use
Change (ILUC), and an updated model for calculating lifecycle Carbon Intensity
(CI) values that is based on Argonne National Laboratory's GREET model.
California is also proposing a two-tiered CI system for certifications and registrations,
with first-generation biofuels placing in tier one, and next-generation
advanced biofuels and any fuel using innovative production methods in tier two.
These changes were made as a result of a 2013 order by the State of California
Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, to remedy legal issues from the
original version of the LCFS that had been adopted. Re-adoption of the updated
California LCFS will be considered at a hearing in July 2015.
On March 19, 2015, the White House published an Executive Order
signed by President Obama that would further a preference for U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred products. Planning
for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade sets new greenhouse
gas (GHG) emission targets for federal agencies to reach by 2025 and increases
renewable energy use and building efficiency, while reducing fleet emissions in
the federal government. The new targets would reduce total GHG emissions by 26
million metric tons, and will be met in part by increasing the share of
electricity from renewable sources that the federal government uses from 9
percent to 30 percent by 2025.
The ambitious GHG emission targets will also be achieved by increasing energy
efficiency in federal buildings by designing new buildings in environmentally
conscious ways and retrofitting existing government buildings to improve energy
conservation, efficiency, and management. The Executive Order also calls for
federal agencies to have a purchase preference for products designated as
recycled content by EPA, products designated BioPreferred and biobased by USDA,
and products designated to be energy and water efficient by EPA.
On March 18, 2015, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced S. 791,
American Energy Renaissance Act of 2015." Representative Jim
Bridenstine (R-OK) introduced companion legislation, H.R. 1487. The legislation
would phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), approve the Keystone XL
pipeline, open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas
exploration, and stop EPA from regulating GHG emissions. Under the bill, the
RFS would start to be phased out in 2016 with a 20 percent reduction in the
volumetric requirements proposed by EPA. The 20 percent reductions would
continue each year until 2020
when the requirements would reach zero.
The legislation is unlikely to pass, but it is another example of
the ongoing RFS fight in Congress. The majority of the biofuels industry is
united in its advocacy to maintain the current RFS law, while the oil industry,
among others, has been fighting for its repeal.
On March 12, 2015, Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA's Office
of Transportation and Air Quality, signed the Notice
Of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Avense) Oil for
Use in Biofuel Production. This notice states that biofuels
produced from pennycress oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced
biofuel when they are produced using typical fuel production process
technologies. The notice is the result of an analysis of the greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions that come from the production and transport of pennycress oil.
According to the analysis, pennycress oil has less than or equal GHG emissions
per ton of oil than soybean oil when accounting for crop inputs, crushing,
extraction, and direct and indirect land use change. Soybean oil and pennycress
oil are expected to also have the same fuel yield per pound of oil. This means
that pennycress oil-based biofuels could produce less GHG than soybean
oil-based biofuels. The notice has not yet been published in the Federal
Register, but once posted will be found at the soon to be opened Docket No.
EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091. Comments will be open for 30 days after publication.
On February 26, 2015, the Oregon State Senate passed Senate
Bill 324 (SB 324), a measure that would require fuel producers to
reduce the amount of carbon in car and truck fuels. If passed by the Oregon
House of Representatives, SB 324 will implement a low-carbon standard in the
state of Oregon. The measure is modeled on California's fuel standard, and
would require fuel importers to cut the carbon in fuels by 10 percent from 2016 to 2025.
This would result in a three percent reduction of the total emissions in
Oregon. The fuel standard could be met through increasing the percentage of
alternative fuels being blended into products, or by using more advanced
biofuels to replace current alternative fuels that are already being blended
into fuels. If the fuel companies are not able to blend to reach the proper
low-carbon standard, they will have to buy credits to offset the excess carbon
in their fuels. Carbon credits could be created and sold by any Oregon-based
public or private entity that is cutting transportation-related carbon
emissions. This broad rule leads to uncertainty in what the cost of carbon
credits will be, and could lead to higher fuel prices. The Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality will be authorized to stop or slow down the low-carbon
standard if the price of gasoline increases substantially as a result of the
On February 25, 2015, the
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the third round of Strategic
Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Renewable Energy Project Development
Assistance that provides tribal governments and entities with
support to produce clean and renewable energy. The START program was launched
in December 2011 and has helped 21 tribal communities advance solar, wind,
biofuels, and energy efficiency projects. The program is open to Indian Tribes,
Alaska Native regional corporations, and formally organized tribal energy
resource development organizations. Applications are due to the DOE Office
of Indian Energy by May
1, 2015, and up to five projects will be selected by the end of