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 Lynn L. Bergeson 

On September 18, 2020, ELI will host a webinar titled “Advanced Biofuels: Fuel for the Future?” from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. (EDT). The webinar, as implied by its title, will focus on the practical and policy challenges and opportunities facing advanced biofuels and the impacts of the coronavirus on biofuel production and research. Panelists may include:

  • Lauren Helen Leyden, Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. (invited);
  • Lynn McKay, Assistant General Counsel, Volkswagen Group of America (invited);
  • Shailesh Sahay, Senior Regulatory Counsel, POET, Inc.;
  • Luke Tonachel, Director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Group, Climate & Clean Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and
  • Stephanie Wettstein, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Montana State University (invited).

The webinar will be open to the public; registration, however, is required. Click here to register.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On July 31, 2020, DOE announced more than $97 million in funding for 33 projects to support research and development (R&D) of high-impact technology to accelerate the U.S. bioeconomy. The aim is for the selected projects to improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biopower, biofuels, and bioproducts from biomass and waste resources. Selected projects will address the following R&D areas:

  • Scale-up of bench applications to reduce scale-up risks for biofuel and bioproduct processes;
  • Waste-to-energy strategies, including strategies for municipal solid waste; wet wastes, like food and manures; and municipal wastewater treatment;
  • Cost reduction of algal biofuels by improving carbon efficiency and by employing direct air capture technologies;
  • Quantification of the economic and environmental benefits associated with growing energy crops, focusing on restoring water quality and soil health;
  • Development and testing of low-emission, high-efficiency residential wood heaters;
  • Innovative technologies to manage major forms of urban and suburban waste, with a focus on using plastic waste to make recycled products and using wastes to produce low-cost biopower; and
  • Scalable carbon dioxide electrocatalysis technologies.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On July 2, 2020, DOE announced that it has selected seven projects to conduct R&D to accelerate the adoption of performance-advantaged biofuel blendstocks. A total of $1.94 million in funding is available for the projects, which will leverage National Laboratory capabilities as part of the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. The Co-Optima initiative focuses on simultaneous innovations in fuels and engines that can boost fuel economy and vehicle performance while reducing emissions.

Each of the Co-Optima initiative awardees will receive up to $300,000 in National Laboratory assistance for experimental or computational projects that leverage:

  • Capabilities in areas of bioblendstock fuel property and production research;
  • Combustion performance modeling;
  • Bioblendstock fuel property and production research;
  • Bioblendstock target identification; and/or
  • Impacts analysis.

Each awardee has committed to a 20 percent cost share contribution.

Assistant Secretary for DOE’s EERE, Daniel R. Simmons, stated that “[t]hese projects are designed to help improve energy efficiency for passenger vehicles through the use of biofuels, translating into savings at the pump.”

Tags: DOE, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 4, 2020, the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) announced the creation of the Biofuel Infrastructure Program (BIP). Designed to increase the availability of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel in Missouri, BIP partners with private entities to support biofuel producers in applying for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Investment Program (HBIIP) funding. The MASBDA Board of Directors has allocated up to $2 million statewide in grant funds. The maximum grant amount is $200,000 for each business entity and can be used to fulfill up to 25 percent of the cash match obligation required for HBIIP. Eligible project costs include but are not limited to:

  • Retrofitting of existing, or purchase and installation of new, fuel dispensers (gas and/or diesel pumps) and attached equipment, underground storage tank system components, and other infrastructure required at a location to ensure the environmentally safe availability of fuel containing ethanol blends greater than 10 percent or fuel containing biodiesel blends greater than 5 percent;
     
  • Construction, retrofitting, replacement, and improvements;
     
  • Fees for construction permits and licenses; and
     
  • Professional service fees for qualified consultants, contractors, installers, and other third-party services.

The application deadline for these grants is July 1, 2020. A non-refundable fee of $150 must accompany applications up to $25,000, and a fee of $300 for applications of $25,000 and over. For funded grants, an administrative fee of 10 percent of the grant amount will be assessed when the contract is executed. Further information can be accessed here, and the application here.

MASBDA Executive Director, Jill Wood, expressed enthusiasm for the newly created BIP, stating that her team at MASBDA “is excited to stand in the financial gap that may help some agribusinesses from applying these federal funds.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication version of a proposed anti-backsliding determination that no additional measures are necessary pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 211(v) to mitigate the adverse air quality impacts of renewable fuel volumes required under CAA Section 211(o). The proposed determination will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day comment period. CAA Section 211 requires EPA to take two actions. The first action is for EPA to complete a study to determine whether renewable fuel volumes required under CAA Section 211(o) will adversely impact air quality given changes of vehicle and engine emissions of air pollutants. This study is often referred to as the anti-backsliding study and must include consideration of various blend levels, types of renewable fuels, and available vehicle technologies. The study must also include appropriate national, regional, and local air quality control measures. EPA has completed the study, which is available here.

The second action requires EPA to make a decision on whether it should proceed down one of the following paths:

  • Promulgation of fuel regulations to implement appropriate measures to mitigate any adverse impacts on air quality as a result of the renewable volumes required by Section 211; or
     
  • Determination that no such measures are required.

In this case, EPA is proposing a determination “that no additional appropriate fuel control measures are necessary to mitigate adverse air quality impacts of required renewable fuel volumes.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it will be hosting a public virtual workshop titled “Workshop on Predictive Models and High Performance Computing as Tools to Accelerate the Scaling-up of New Bio-Based Fuels.” The goal is to determine if predictive models and high performance computing can and should be used to reduce biotechnology uncertainty and accelerate scaling-up of biorefinery/chemical production equipment and optimize operations. The virtual workshop will be held from June 9 to June 11, 2020, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT) each day. Registration is required by 4:00 p.m. (EDT) June 5, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 21, 2020, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary to establish a renewable feedstock reimbursement program. Aiming to support biofuel producers that have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, this bill can be cited as the Renewable Fuel Feedstock Reimbursement Act of 2020. Under the reimbursement program, biofuel producers will be reimbursed for their feedstock purchases from January 1, 2020, through March 31, 2020, through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Eligible parties will consist of those that produce renewable fuel used as transportation fuel and eligible feedstocks mean renewable biomass intended for production of the aforementioned renewable fuel. Furthermore, to be eligible to receive reimbursements, eligible entities must enter into an agreement with the USDA Secretary.

The two U.S. Senators initially introduced this idea in April 2020 as an amendment to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stabilization (CARES) Act, which assists the biofuels industry sector. Assistance, however, was not included in the CARES Act package. Senators Klobuchar and Grassley, with industry support, now hope that this second attempt in support of the biofuels industry follows through.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 18, 2020, USDA issued its final rule for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (9003 Program), which incorporates the statutory definition changes as required in the Agricultural Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) and adopts the interim rule published on June 14, 2015. The 9003 Program replaces the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP), which guaranteed loans to fund the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial-scale biorefineries using eligible technology. The final rule makes several specific changes to BAP, including:

  • Renames the program as the 9003 Program;
  • Revises the purpose statement for the program to include renewable chemicals and biobased product manufacturing;
  • Expands the program to include biobased product manufacturing facilities;
  • Adds definitions for “renewable chemicals” and “biobased product manufacturing”; and
  • Ensures diversity in the types of projects approved by the program.

The final rule became effective on May 18, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 11, 2020, a total of 70 Mayors from various cities in the United States submitted a letter to Andrew Wheeler, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, criticizing the decision not to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and not to reject proposed waivers under Section 211(o)(7) of the Clean Air Act. The Mayors state that this decision on waivers is already causing damage to the economy and will continue to devastate farmers, workers, and families who depend on the biofuels industry. The letter emphasizes:

The request for these waivers is unjustified under the law. Such waivers from RFS requirements may only be granted if there is a demonstration that the RFS causes severe economic harm to the economy as a whole. In reality, refiner market conditions are a result of plummeting demand for gasoline across the country, not compliance with the RFS. Further, the RFS already considers demand reduction by adjusting annual blending volumes to reflect actual motor fuel demand.

Furthermore, the signatory Mayors oppose the claim that higher Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) prices damage biofuel refineries. Referencing an EPA market analysis, the Mayors argue that higher RIN prices are recovered in the sale of the product rather than disadvantaging merchant refiners. The letter concludes by requesting that EPA reject unjustifiable RFS waiver requests.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On May 12, 2020, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would make emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2020. Titled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), this bill addresses various issues, many of which have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these issues include provisions of revenue, health, retirement, government operations, and support for processed commodities, among others.

Of particular interest to the biofuels industry is the bill’s introduction of a Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program, which would make payments to eligible entities that experienced market losses due to the pandemic between January 1, 2020, and May 1, 2020. Eligible entities will consist of any facility that produced renewable fuel or advanced biofuel in calendar year 2019. The amount of payment to an eligible entity will be the sum of $0.45 multiplied by the number of gallons of qualified fuel produced in that period. Should a determination be made that an entity was unable to produce qualified fuel for one or more months during the applicable period due to the pandemic, $0.45 multiplied by 50 percent of the number of gallons produced in the corresponding month in 2019 will be paid.


 
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