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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On December 10, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will hold a virtual public hearing on its proposal for the “Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: RFS Annual Rules” signed on December 7, 2021. The virtual public hearing is scheduled for January 4, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST). If necessary, EPA will hold an additional virtual session on January 5, 2022, to accommodate the number of testifiers.
 
EPA is proposing the 2020, 2021, and 2022 renewable fuel standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. It is also proposing to:

  • Address the remand of the 2016 standard-setting rulemaking;
  • Extend certain RFS compliance and attest engagement reporting deadlines for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 compliance years; and
  • Implement several regulatory changes to the RFS program.

 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 11, 2021, the University of Iowa announced that its Department of Biology scientists discovered a new type of genetic variation in yeast that can improve the production of ethanol. According to the study conducted by the University’s biologists, yeast strains with certain alleles of gene MED15 are more efficient at fermentation. The study was led by Professor Jan Fassler, who states that these findings may assist scientists in engineering a better yeast strain to produce more efficiently bioethanol for fuel and wine.


 

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

On November 26, 2021, EPA issued a proposed rule to modify certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. For small refineries only, EPA is proposing to extend the RFS compliance reporting deadline and the associated attest engagement reporting deadline for compliance year 2019. EPA is also proposing to extend the RFS compliance reporting deadline and the associated attest reporting deadline for 2020 and 2021 compliance years for all obligated parties. Lastly, EPA is also proposing to change the way that it determines future RFS compliance and attest engagement reporting deadlines.

Comments on the proposed rule are due on or prior to January 3, 2022.

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 

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

On October 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) issued a notice of intent to release a second Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to accelerate the scale-up of biofuel and bioproduct refineries. Funded by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), this FOA will include efforts for pre-pilot, pilot, and demonstration scale projects. The FOA will fund projects in the planning phase, projects that already have a design package and are ready to construct, and projects that were funded by DOE previously for design work.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biofuel

 

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

On September 30, 2021, DOE announced the launch of a new prize that will award up to $2.5 million in cash prizes to ten groups and organizations that support entrepreneurship and innovation in historically underserved communities. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize acknowledges that underserved populations have been and continue to be more susceptible to the negative impact of climate change, global warming, and pollution. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED), hope to improve disadvantaged communities’ access to clean energy innovation ecosystems and to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to prioritize environmental and economic justice in the United States’ transition into a net-zero economy by 2050. The goals of the Prize are to:

  • Enable clean energy and climate innovation at colleges and universities serving large populations of students that are underrepresented in STEM, Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), community colleges, and undergraduate institutions.
     
  • Create and increase participation in clean energy and climate-smart job training and placement, including programs that target participation from:
     
    • Underserved populations;
       
    • Formerly incarcerated individuals; and
       
    • Youth transitioning from foster care.
       
  • Foster just and equitable clean energy deployment through grassroots innovation activities focused on community-centric networks and bottom-up solutions for sustainable development based on the needs of the communities involved.
     
  • Identify and fund activities that will help bring awareness to DOE, federal, state, local government, or private funding in support of the Justice40 goals.
     
  • Enable the development of replicable clean energy transitions that deliver just and equitable benefits to disadvantaged communities.

DOE and ED will distribute Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize funds in two phases. In Phase One, winners will receive an initial cash prize of $200,000 each, with an opportunity to receive additional awards, mentorship, and other services. Phase One winners will also be eligible for participation in Phase Two prizes. In Phase Two, up to three teams will receive cash prizes from a pool of $500,000.

Phase One applications may be submitted until 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 25, 2022, with winner announcements in March 2022. Phase Two applications may be submitted beginning in March 2023. Information on how to apply is available here.


 

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

As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on the production of cost-effective and low-carbon biofuels. DOE aims to advance technologies to replace petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation, such as airplanes and ships.
 
DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that, although heavy-duty vehicles in the transportation sector such as planes and ships are difficult to electrify, decarbonizing transportation is a critical part of the path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Also as part of the SAF Grand Challenge, DOE signed on September 8, 2021, a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The memorandum formalizes the DOE, DOT, and USDA’s collaborative efforts on the required research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to reach the goals of supplying at least three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050.
 
DOE selected 22 projects to receive the available funds administered by its Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The projects target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D to increase foundational knowledge and scale up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs, covering five topic areas:

  • Scale-Up of Biotechnologies;
  • Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion;
  • Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion;
  • Residential Wood Heaters; and
  • Renewable Natural Gas.

Additional information about the selected projects is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2021, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a bill called the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. The bill clarifies that only oil refineries that have been continuously receiving small refinery exemptions (SRE) since 2011 should be eligible to petition for extensions of renewable fuel blending requirement exemptions. The SRE Clarification Act follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June 2021 that, according to Representatives Craig and Feenstra, could negatively influence the biofuels industry by making it easier for oil refineries to avoid Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. Representative Craig stated that “[‌i]t is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.” Representative Feenstra emphasized that “we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced Phase I selections for the Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments Program. Designed by NREL to provide assistance in the development of waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies on behalf of BETO, the goal of this program is to identify gaps and gather data and information on organic waste streams. The information gathered is used to:

  • Provide data to local decisionmakers;
  • Deploy the analyses that have been developed for various energy/resource recovery strategies; and
  • Locally foster public-private partnerships.

BETO aims to enable organic waste energy and/or resource recovery at the municipal level by leveraging technical expertise and data to address specific issues each municipality may encounter with their waste streams. Phase I of the program funds collaborations between NREL and 16 local government bodies to provide strategic planning support, quantification of local organic waste resources, and mitigation approaches for localized environmental impacts. A full list of Phase I selectees can be accessed here. Phase II funding will depend on BETO’s funding availability later in 2021.

Tags: DOE, BETO, NREL, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that the United States, Denmark, and Norway joined forces with the Global Maritime Forum and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping to lead a new Zero-Emission Shipping Mission. This effort is part of Mission Innovation, “a global initiative to catalyze action and investment in research, development and demonstration to make clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible to all this decade.” Supported by the governments of India, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Singapore, France, Ghana, and South Korea, Mission Innovation aims to accelerate the Paris Agreement progress toward net zero emissions. According to DOE’s EERE, international maritime shipping represents approximately two to three percent of the world’s total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Without addressing these emissions from maritime shipping, emissions could increase anywhere between 50 and 250 percent by 2050. Therefore, the Zero-Emissions Shipping Mission aims to:

  • Develop, demonstrate, and deploy zero-emissions fuels, ships, and fuel infrastructure across the value chain;
  • Ensure that by 2030, ships capable of running on hydrogen-based zero-emission fuels, such as green hydrogen, green ammonia, green methanol, and biofuels, make up at least five percent of the global deep-sea fleet measured by fuel consumption; and
  • Ensure that by 2030, at least 200 of these zero-emission fueled ships are in service and using these fuels across their main deep-sea shipping routes.

 
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