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.

On July 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Bioenergy Technology Office published in the Federal Register a "Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Integrated Biorefinery Lessons Learned and Best Practices."

According to the RFI, its purpose is "to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to lessons learned and best practices developed during the design, financing, construction, commissioning, startup, shakedown and operations of pilot-, demonstration-, and commercial-scale integrated biorefineries."

A copy of the RFI is available online. Comments are due by July 15, 2014.


 

On June 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its second round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) designed to promote scientific breakthroughs in energy. Under this round of funding, DOE is providing $100 million to support 32 EFRC projects throughout the country. According to DOE's press release on the announcement, the selected EFRCs "will help lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments." A copy of the press release is available online. A full list of EFRC awardees, including brief project descriptions, is available online.


 

On May 19, 2014, two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) notices were published in the Federal Register. The first is a notice of an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee (Committee). The Committee advises DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) and priority technical biomass research and development (R&D) needs, and makes recommendations to the Biomass Research and Development Board. The meeting is scheduled to take place on June 5, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., and June 6, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Omni Shoreham, 2500 Calvert Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. A copy of the notice is available online.


To attend the meeting and/or to make oral statements regarding any of the items on the agenda below, you must contact Elliott Levine at 202-586-1476 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and Roy Tiley at 410-997-7778 ext. 220 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at least five business days prior to the meeting.


The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice and guidance that promotes R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. The agenda is expected to include the following:

* Update on USDA Biomass R&D Activities;

* Update on DOE Biomass R&D Activities;

* Update on the BRDI;

* Update on the DOE Loan Program Solicitations;

* Update on the BioEconomy Initiative;

* Overview of the BioEconomy Initiative Analysis;

* Feedstocks panel on fuels from corn stover; and

* An overview and application of the USDA Feedstock Readiness Level Tool.


The second notice is a solicitation for nominations for candidates to fill vacancies on the Committee. Nominations must be submitted by June 9, 2014. A detailed description of the Committee and the nomination process is provided in the notice, which is available online.


By law, the Committee must include, among others, an individual affiliated with the biofuels industry and an individual affiliated with the biobased industrial and commercial products industry. According to the notice, while nominations will be accepted for other categories, nominations this year are needed for the following categories in order to address the Committee's needs: (E) an individual affiliated with a commodity trade association; (F) individuals affiliated with environmental or conservation organizations; (J) an individual with expertise in agricultural economics; (K) an individual with expertise in plant biology and biomass feedstock development; and (M) at the option of the points of contact, other members.
 


 

On May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Inspector General (IG), Gregory H. Friedman, issued an audit report on "Implementation of Recommendations from the January 2012 Independent Consultant's Review of the Department of Energy Loan and Loan Guarantee Portfolio." A copy of the report is available online.


In the fall of 2011, following the high-profile bankruptcies of alternative energy companies that had received DOE loan guarantees, including Solyndra, Inc. (Solyndra) and Beacon Power, LLC, the White House requested an independent review of the DOE loan guarantee program for alternative energy. In January 2012, that Independent Consultant issued his report, including 12 recommendations for improving the administration of the DOE loan guarantee program. The current IG report assesses whether the DOE implemented those recommendations.


The IG found that DOE had either made constructive changes pursuant to the recommendations, or had sufficient reasons explaining why it had not yet implemented them. In addition, the IG makes several suggestions to improve the program further.


This report is positive for the DOE loan guarantee program for alternative energy, as it is important that DOE appears responsive to the Independent Consultant's recommendations for improving its administration. The loan guarantees are among the few potential federal sources of funding for the development of biofuels. The program faced -- and is still recovering from -- significant public relations challenges following the announcement of Solyndra's bankruptcy. It provided, and continues to provide, program opponents with arguments against providing continued federal support for DOE loans and loan guarantees for alternative energy.
 

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On May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Inspector General (IG), Gregory H. Friedman, issued an audit report on "Implementation of Recommendations from the January 2012 Independent Consultant's Review of the Department of Energy Loan and Loan Guarantee Portfolio." A copy of the report is available online.


In the fall of 2011, following the high-profile bankruptcies of alternative energy companies that had received DOE loan guarantees, including Solyndra, Inc. (Solyndra) and Beacon Power, LLC, the White House requested an independent review of the DOE loan guarantee program for alternative energy. In January 2012, that Independent Consultant issued his report, including 12 recommendations for improving the administration of the DOE loan guarantee program. The current IG report assesses whether the DOE implemented those recommendations.


The IG found that DOE had either made constructive changes pursuant to the recommendations, or had sufficient reasons explaining why it had not yet implemented them. In addition, the IG makes several suggestions to improve the program further.


This report is positive for the DOE loan guarantee program for alternative energy, as it is important that DOE appears responsive to the Independent Consultant's recommendations for improving its administration. The loan guarantees are among the few potential federal sources of funding for the development of biofuels. The program faced -- and is still recovering from -- significant public relations challenges following the announcement of Solyndra's bankruptcy. It provided, and continues to provide, program opponents with arguments against providing continued federal support for DOE loans and loan guarantees for alternative energy.
 

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Last week, Purdue University (Purdue) President Mitch Daniels, and U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreeing to work together on the development of alternative energy sources, including biofuels, for use by the U.S. Navy. As part of the agreement, Purdue has committed to establishing the Purdue Military Research Initiative. This initiative will cover the cost of graduate education for up to ten active duty members of the military pursuing studies in alternative energy, alternative fuels or energy efficient technologies.


This announcement furthers efforts made by the U.S. Navy in recent years to expand its use of alternative energy sources. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) entered into and has worked to implement an MOU with the DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide a collective $510 million toward the commercial development and availability of drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use. In addition, the U.S. Navy has developed goals to deploy a "Great Green Fleet" strike group of ships and aircraft running on alternative fuel blends by 2016 and to meet 50 percent of its energy consumption through the use of alternative sources by 2020.
 

 


 

On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would provide up to $10 million to promote the production of "advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks, and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as agricultural residues and woody biomass." For more information, and to apply for this opportunity, please visit DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website. A copy of the press release is available online.


 

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), which closes on April 22, 2014. Through the FOA, the Advanced Manufacturing Office of DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office seeks to establish a Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Composites Materials and Structures. According to the FOA, "[t]he technical topic area for this Institute is low cost, energy efficient manufacturing of fiber reinforced polymer composites. The Institute will target continuous or discontinuous, primarily carbon and glass fiber systems, with thermoset or thermoplastic resin materials. These types of composites are foundational technologies that are broadly applicable and pervasive in multiple industries and markets with potentially transformational technical and economic impact." A copy of the FOA is available online.


 

On March 4, 2014, President Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 Budget request, which includes aggressive proposed funding to carry out the Administration's Climate Action Plan designed to reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the impacts of climate change. The President's FY 2015 Budget includes funding for several programs and initiatives to help facilitate the continued development and production of biofuels and biobased products. Consistent with the newly enacted Farm Bill, the Budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes increased funding for biobased product manufacturing. Given political realities and this midterm election year, it is not expected that the President's FY 2015 Budget Request will be enacted as proposed. It represents a starting point in the budget process, however, and indicates the Administration's priorities.


Here are highlights from the FY 2015 Budget proposal:


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): While the total budget request for EPA of $7.9 billion represents a decrease of $0.3 billion from last year, the cuts are mostly found within water infrastructure funds, with several programs seeing an increase over last year's levels. EPA's budget summary document notes that the Agency intends on evaluating its workforce and "identifying needed skills for a streamlined EPA." EPA's Appendix notes that under the "TSCA Confidential Business Information [CBI] Fund," the "Budget proposes to expand EPA's existing authority to collect fees to recover a portion of the costs of reviewing and maintaining the CBI."

U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE): The FY 2015 Budget includes $27.9 billion for DOE, a 2.6 percent increase over FY 2014 enacted levels. This funding includes several programs designed to encourage and facilitate the development and production of advanced biofuels. For instance, the FY 2015 Budget would fund the DOE's:

        o Bioenergy Technology Program At $253 Million: A $12 million decrease over FY 2014. This program funds research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects to advance biofuels technologies and to validate and assist in the commercialization of integrated biorefinery technologies that will help transform the nation's transportation sector.

        o Energy Security Trust At $2 Billion Over Ten Years: According to the DOE's FY 2015 Budget Appendix, this trust would be newly created to "support research into a range of technologies -- like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, hydrogen, and domestically produced natural gas -- to allow the Nation to transition from oil towards more secure alternatives. The [t]rust will be funded from existing royalty revenues generated from [f]ederal oil and gas development. Establishing a guaranteed source of funding will allow the Department of Energy to maintain targeted and sustained investments that will directly advance U.S. energy security."

        o Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy At $2.3 Billion: An increase of approximately $0.2 billion over FY 2014. Under this program, DOE invests in the development of renewable generation technologies, sustainable transportation technologies, and advanced manufacturing technologies, as well as in improving energy efficiency in our homes, buildings and industries.

        o Advanced Research Projects Agency At $325 Million: An increase of $76 million over FY 2014 levels. This program provides funding for research and development of transformational clean energy technologies.

USDA: The FY 2015 Budget includes $23.7 billion in discretionary funding for USDA, a decrease of approximately $1 billion from FY 2014. The Budget provides for the USDA launch of three new multidisciplinary agricultural research institutes, one of which would be dedicated to advanced biobased manufacturing. It also includes the mandatory funding provided in the newly enacted Farm Bill for important energy programs designed to help encourage the production of biofuels and biobased chemicals. For instance, the FY 2015 USDA Budget Request provides funding for the:

        o Biobased Markets Program At $3 Million In Mandatory Funding, the same level as FY 2014: The Biobased Markets (BioPreferred®) Program creates a procurement preference at federal agencies for biobased products.

        o Biobased Research And Development Initiative At $3 Million In Mandatory Funding, a decrease of approximately $2 million from FY 2014: This program provides competitive funding for RD&D of technologies and processes leading to commercial production of biofuels and biobased products.

        o Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) At $25 Million In Mandatory Funding: BCAP provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to establish, cultivate and harvest eligible biomass for heat, power, biobased products, research, and advanced biofuels. Crop producers and bioenergy facilities can team together to submit proposals to USDA for selection as a BCAP project area.

        o Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, And Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program At $50 Million In Mandatory Funding, a decrease of $80 million from FY 2014: This program provides competitive loan guarantees and grants for the construction or retrofitting of demonstration-scale facilities for the commercial production of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products.
 


 

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office will host the second of two workshops on algae biofuels strategy on March 26-27, 2014, in Charleston, South Carolina. A copy of the agenda is available online.


The workshop will focus on the research and development still needed to achieve affordable, scalable, and sustainable algae-based biofuels. It will cover topics including barriers to commercialization for algae biofuels and appropriate metrics for success. It comes five years after DOE organized the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap workshop. The workshop is intended to help DOE in its strategic development, evaluating the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap, and planning a breakout session at the Office's annual Bioenergy Conference in 2014.


Participants may register online.
 


 
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