On June 1, 2015, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) voted to pass the new Low iLUC Risk Biomass Criteria and Compliance Indicators standard. The standard was approved as an optional module for those undergoing RSB certification, and will be used to show that biomass is produced with low indirect land use change (iLUC), resulting in little impact on food production and biodiversity. It is important to demonstrate how iLUC in order to prove that a biobased alternative to a traditional product is better for the environment than the original product. iLUC takes into account the indirect carbon emissions released due to expansion of croplands for biomass production, in part due to clearance of forest areas.
On May 20, 2015, the European Parliament voted to reject a
that would eliminate the requirement for import
licenses of ethanol of agricultural origin. The plan was
rejected with a
of 486 to 164 amid concerns that the
loss of ethanol import data that came from the licenses
would negatively impact anti-dumping duty cases. The
anti-dumping duties were implemented in February 2013, and
are valid through February 2018. The duties require
$83.03 per metric ton of U.S. ethanol that is exported to
European Union (EU) countries. The continuation of
ethanol import licenses also ensures transparency, and
that current information about the evolution of the
ethanol market is available to regulators and other
On April 29, 2015, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) released a draft standard titled "Low iLUC Risk Biomass Criteria and Compliance Indicators" that will allow producers to show that they generate biofuels crops with a low-risk of indirect land use change (ILUC). The standards take into account yield increase, unused or degraded land, use of waste or residues, and integrated sugarcane and cattle production. The RSB standard is intended to be used in conjunction with the new European Union (EU) ILUC amendment that has provisions for low-ILUC biofuels. The standard will be released in final at the RSB general assembly meeting June 1, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland, and is currently open to public comments.
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 14, 2015, Members of the European Parliament and certain ministers agreed to limit how biofuels derived from agricultural crops would be accounted for in the European Union's (EU) goal to increase the use of renewable energy. The new law caps the use of first generation biofuels to seven percent of the total energy use being counted towards the EU's renewable energy goal of ten percent. Member States will have the opportunity to reduce the cap of crop-based biofuels at their discretion. The law came about in part from fears about food security and negative indirect land use change (ILUC) occurring due to widespread crop-based biofuels. The EU has used ILUC to calculate the net greenhouse gas (GHG) production of biofuels, despite concerns that it is scientifically flawed. The agreement reached will eliminate the ILUC factor as a way to judge the benefits of fuels in the EU, but will still need to be reported by fuel suppliers. The agreement will be voted on during the April 27-30, 2015, plenary session. Member States will have until 2017 to enact the legislation.
On March 30, 2015, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) submitted a petition
to EPA seeking reconsideration and a request for stay of EPA's approval of the
Argentinian Camara Argentina de Biocombustibles (CARBIO) Alternative Biomass
Tracking Program. According to the NBB
press release, EPA failed to provide an opportunity for
public comment on the EPA decision and a lack of transparency as to how the
Argentinian biodiesel producers will demonstrate compliance with the Renewable
Fuel Standard (RFS). NBB notes that EPA's delay in establishing RFS volumes has
destabilized the U.S. biodiesel industry and the anticipated influx of
biodiesel, as a result of the CARBIO program approval, will only make the U.S.
situation worse. NBB separately filed a lawsuit challenging EPA's alternate
renewable biomass tracking requirements. Nat'l Biodiesel Bd. v. EPA,
D.C. Cir. No. 15-1073 (Mar. 30, 2015). NBB asserts that EPA's approval of the
CARBIO plan provides a new opportunity to review the tracking provisions that
were included in a 2010 rulemaking.
On March 2, 2015, the winners of the 2015
Bio Business Awards were announced at the World Bio Markets (WBM)
event in Amsterdam. The awards are designed to reward innovation and leadership
in the development of sustainable and renewable fuel and chemical solutions.
Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation was named the WBM Industry Champion 2015,
DuPont's Sorona Fiber won an award for Breakthrough Biobased Technology
Platform, and Elevance Renewable Sciences won the Biobased Product Innovation
of the Year for its Elevance Clean 1200 product. Other awards went to Lanzatech
for Feedstock of the Year, Jennifer Holmgren from Lanzatech for Biobased
Businessperson of the Year, United LAX Biotech Initiative for Excellence in
Advanced Biofuels, and UPM Biofuels for Commercial Scale Plant of the Year.
Nominations for the 2016 WBM Bio Business Awards will open in November 2015.
On February 24, 2015, the
Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced $5.2 million in funding
that would go to the design and construction of a pilot
scale biofuel production facility in Perth. The company in charge
of creating the facility is Renergi, a startup established in 2012 with the
goal of commercializing a suite of energy technologies that were developed in
Curtin University's Fuels and Energy Technology Institute. The production
facility will contain a 100 kg per hour biomass conversion unit and a 20 liter
per hour biorefinery unit. As described in the ARENA announcement, the plant
will convert agriculture waste, as well as other biomass, into transport fuels
through a process that "incorporates steel grinding balls into a rotating
biomass conversion unit, allowing simultaneous break-down and
gasification." The project is expected to cost a total of $12.9 million
and be completed in October
On January 27, 2015, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the importation of biodiesel
made from soybeans from Argentinian biofuel producers as qualifying for U.S.
biofuel credits under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Argentina's Biofuels Chamber's (CARBIO) request for an "Alternative
Renewable Biomass Tracking Requirement" was approved, which allows foreign
manufacturers to be part of the RFS if they follow certain environmental
standards. The U.S. biodiesel industry has criticized this pathway approval for
Argentinian biodiesel because it is believed to be less rigorous than other
certification standards used previously. Before this pathway was approved,
individual Argentinian biofuel producers could still qualify for the RFS
program on their own, but the new method through CARBIO will allow all
interested companies to be tracked as a consortium. EPA does not expect the
approval to result in competition with domestic biofuel producers. This claim
is strongly disputed by U.S. agricultural and biofuel groups. The Argentinian
biodiesel industry has a production capacity of well over 1 billion gallons,
which could displace a large percentage of the RFS volume requirement of 1.28
billion gallons, which to date has been made up primarily of U.S. product.
The National Biodiesel Board and others have sought the views of
the EPA Administrator and have asked EPA to revisit this pathway decision. If
EPA does not change its position, the organizations may consider legal options.
In addition, there is currently a group of about 30 U.S. Senators who have
called for EPA to reverse the rule.
On January 23, 2015, China's
National Energy Administration issued a biodiesel industry development plan
(available in Chinese) to improve the biodiesel sector. The plan
encouraged the production of cleaner fuels as well as the use of renewable
fuels by promoting foreign companies' participation in the industry; mergers,
acquisitions, and restructuring of domestic biodiesel companies; and fuel
blending of biodiesel. The plan will initially focus on the areas with the most
air pollution controls, including Beijing-Tianjin Province and Hebei Province
and the area around the Yangtze River Delta. New standards on the production of
biodiesel should improve the environmental impact of biodiesel production as
restrictions on the energy, freshwater, and waste disposal of the production go
into effect within two years.