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 March 23, 2017, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (ARB) announced the release of new carbon intensity pathways for fuels certified under the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) using the CA-GREET 2.0 model.  Of the 18 pathways approved in March, eight are first generation biodiesel carbon intensity pathways and four are second generation renewable diesel carbon intensity pathways.  A pathway for biodiesel produced from used cooking oil has been provisionally certified, as well.  The approved pathways can be used for credit reporting purposes beginning with reports for Q1 2017.  The LCFS regulation aims to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels sold in California by 10 percent by 2020 in line with the California Health and Safety Code mandate to reduce greenhouse gases in California.


 

On March 24, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG®, announced its approval of draft proposals by the Swedish government regarding mandated reductions in traffic fuel emissions and the continued tax exemption for high-blended biofuels.  By 2030, the government aims to reduce carbon emissions from transportation by 70 percent.  In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the ambitious targets and long-term perspective will help support innovation and investments in biofuels.  Neste, which has a strong focus on developing cost-efficient technologies to convert forest residues into biofuels, stated that the substantial amount of forest-based raw materials in the country will likely play a key role in achieving the proposed goals.


 

On November 3, 2016, the European Commission announced that 144 new green and low-carbon projects from 23 Member States will be funded by a €222.7 million investment from the European Union (EU) budget, which will be combined with €175.9 from additional investments.  The funding comes from the LIFE programme, the EU’s funding body for the environment and climate action, with the goal of progressing Europe towards a more sustainable future.
 
The selected projects align with the EU’s objective to reduce GHG emissions and transition to a more circular economy.  Examples of 2015 projects include:  

 

Implementation of Biodolomer®, a fossil-free biomaterial, in place of plastic packaging for four commercial reference products;

 

Production of biopolymers for the tanning industry using recycled biomass from the tanning process; and

 

Incorporation of cultivated banana organic waste fibers as an additive to create bioplastic covers to protect banana treats from UV radiation.

 

On October 12, 2016, EPA convened a public advisory committee teleconference of the Biogenic Carbon Emissions Panel.  This advisory meeting discussed comments from chartered Science Advisory Board (SAB) members from the draft report on EPA’s Framework for Assessing Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources.  The SAB panel announced plans to overhaul the current draft report to provide emission examples at various time scales.  This change, to include longer time spans, is supported by industry professionals who believe it better represents the full carbon sequestration benefits created through regrowth of biomass.  Inside EPA (subscription required) quoted the Environmental Defense Fund’s Steven Hamburg, noting that the SAB should “make clear the implications of picking different time horizons, as opposed to a priori picking a time horizon.”  There is not yet a schedule for when the next draft report will be released for review by the full SAB.


 

On October 11, 2016, the Biofrontiers platform, a group of industry and civil society stakeholders brought together by the European Climate Foundation, released policy recommendations for the European Union’s (EU) 2030 climate policy.  The group stated that the transport sector has become the largest source of carbon emissions in the EU, and is therefore an urgent area to tackle following the Paris climate change agreement.  Policy recommendations put forth by the Biofrontiers platform, as stated in the Biofrontiers report, include:
 




 
Energy and climate policy for 2030 should ensure deep cuts to lifecycle emissions and safeguard food, soil, water and biodiversity. Incentives should be linked to the availability of sustainable feedstocks.  Site-specific assessments are needed to create confidence in feedstock supply chains.
 


 
Within [current EU energy policy focusing on fuels with low carbon intensity], support for advanced alternative fuels should be prioritised.
 


 
A realistic and responsible binding target for fuel suppliers for advanced alternative fuels in 2025, with a higher target range set for 2030.
 



 
Policymakers should have regard to other objectives in forestry, climate, agriculture and waste management.  Where there may be competition between liquid transport fuel production from wastes and other waste management options, policy should “encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome,” as required by the Waste Framework Directive.
 

 
Any 2030 policy framework should be designed with flexibility to allow novel fuel technologies and different feedstocks to be eligible for support as they arrive on the market, subject to life cycle analysis and sustainability assessment.

 

On September 21, 2016, Pannonia Ethanol, a Hungarian biofuels company, spoke out against the European Commission's (EC) Low-Emission Mobility Strategy . The strategy recognizes the importance of biofuels in reducing road emissions, and plans on replacing ethanol that is currently being blended into traditional fuels with advanced biofuels. This has spurred concerns for the ethanol industry, as ethanol is increasingly phased out of government emission reduction initiatives in favor of advanced biofuels. Mark Turley, CEO of Ethanol Europe, said of the new strategy, "Incentives and policy support are essential to develop [a European Union] advanced biofuel industry. However, the Commission's new strategy lacks realism, further undermines confidence and is incapable of delivering the emission reduction targets set out."


 

On August 10, 2016, Red Trail Energy, LLC, a North Dakota ethanol producer, announced that it, along with the Energy & Environmental Research Center, had been awarded $490,000 to examine the integration of carbon capture and storage (CCS). The study will consist of installing and operating a commercial CCS system in a facility producing approximately 63 million gallons of ethanol and 180,000 tons of CO2, and tracking the technical and economic parameters required. The total project is expected to cost $980,000. "North Dakota ethanol producers are well-situated to take advantage of these low-carbon fuel incentives because there is significant production capacity and ideal geology for carbon storage," said project manager Kerryanne Leroux, EERC Senior Chemical Engineer, Oilfield Operations Team Lead. Further, "[t]he study will provide local ethanol producers a detailed assessment of the commercial feasibility of utilizing CCS technology within their production operations." The project will also provide a template for implementation of CCS technology statewide, promoting renewable energy production in North Dakota.


 

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)).


 

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 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.
 


 
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