Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On June 2, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), released a statement in response to the decision by President Trump to withdraw the U.S from the Paris Agreement.  According to Neste, the U.S. withdrawal is “unfortunate” and “a saddening turn for the international battle against climate change.”  The decision, however, will not signal the downfall of the Agreement, which has been ratified by 147 of the 197 countries that signed it.  The statement highlights the fact that no changes have been made to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which has set increasing obligations for renewable fuels for 2017 and 2018, nor to the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard.  Neste aims to continue to make renewable products available to U.S. states, cities, and businesses to support their ambitious targets for reducing emissions.


 

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 16, 2016, the White House filed the Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change under the Paris climate deal. The strategy highlights the role that U.S. government-funded research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) had on the technological advances of the last century, and the potential to increase the pace and reduce the costs of decarbonization using the full power of U.S. RD&D efforts focused on clean energy technologies.
 
The strategy states that potentially high impact technologies in early stages of development or commercial deployment, such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), advanced nuclear, and second generation biofuels, can benefit from support programs that drive cost reductions through learning and economies-of-scale. The strategy also states that the cost of decarbonization can likely be lowered by public and private RD&D that covers a wide range of technologies as it is unclear how the technologies will progress over time. 

Regarding biofuels, the strategy identified opportunities for RD&D investments to:


 
Reduce biofuel production costs;
 

 
Improve production efficiency;
 

 
Develop “drop-in” fuels that require no changes to existing fuel infrastructure;
 


 
Co-optimize engines with low-carbon fuel to maximize performance and greenhouse gas reductions; and
 
Ensure biomass production and use methods are carbon beneficial.

 

On November 3, 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released the seventh UNEP Environment Emissions Gap Report, presenting a scientific assessment of global progress towards emissions reductions created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The report found that if all Paris Agreement pledges to reduce emissions global temperature are achieved, global temperatures will still rise to more than 2°C over preindustrial levels.  UNEP chief Erik Solheim stated that we need to move faster to mitigate our impact on climate change, with the report calling for strong clean energy and emissions reducing policies before the 2020 tipping point when the warming trajectory will become more difficult to reverse.  The report identifies carbon capture and storage coupled with the use of bio-energy as a key factor to limit warming, but mentions the need to produce sufficient quantities of biomass without harming biodiversity.


 

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 April 21, 2016, DOE and IEA Bioenergy (IEA) presented a webinar, Bioenergy - Is It Good for the Climate?, which discussed the climate benefits of bioenergy and the impact of bioenergy on atmospheric CO2 levels. The webinar featured Annett Cowie, principal Research Scientist in New South Wales' Department of Primary Industries, and Task Leader of the International Energy Agency Bioenergy research network "Climate Change Effects of Biomass and Bioenergy Systems." Archives of the IEA Bioenergy Webinar Series are available for viewing online.


 

On September 15, 2015, the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, spoke at the Growth Energy Advocacy Conference about the need of the upcoming RFS rule to encourage long-term investment in advanced biofuels to successfully grow capacity. McCarthy went on to say that the November 30, 2015, deadline is a priority for her to have the RFS rule finished to improve investment conditions for biofuels. She considers the RFS to be one of the best tools that the Administration has in the long-term fight against climate change. EPA is currently looking at approximately 650,000 comments from the proposed rule containing changes for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 blending requirements, and McCarthy stated that she has heard the industry's major concerns.


 

On September 7, 2015, Clean Technica published a conversation with Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen about opportunities for growth coming from the upcoming COP 21 Paris climate talks. Nielsen expressed a desire for a form of taxation or limits on carbon emissions to be put in place over the next 10 or 15 years. In the future, Nielsen sees biofuel production becoming more sustainable as people turn to waste biomass rather than producing biomass. The increasing use of waste biomass is an opportunity for Novozymes to deploy enzymes that are capable of converting waste biomass into biofuels in a cost effective and efficient manner. Novozymes is a global biotechnology company with a focus on industrial enzymes, microorganisms, and biopharmaceutical ingredients and is a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) associate member.


 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its fiscal year 2016 budget request on February 2, 2015. The proposed budget is $156 billion total, with $6 billion going directly to loans that will encourage cleaner fossil fuel use and support renewable energy in rural America. The $6 billion allocation is an increase of $1 billion that would be allocated towards loans from the 2015 fiscal year. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that the proposed budget "fosters innovation and advances technologies that address climate change vulnerability, improve pollinator health, combat antimicrobial resistance, encourage the development of renewable energy, and support the efficiency, sustainability and profitability of America's farmers and ranchers, particularly those just starting out."

 

 

On October 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released two plans related to climate change. The Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and the Climate Change Adaptation Plan are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for flooding, rising sea levels, and extreme temperatures/weather patterns. These plans come five years after the 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance that set energy, climate, and environmental goals for government agencies. The release of the plans gave Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz an opportunity to outline how the use of clean energy resources, as part of the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, has been implemented within the Department. DOE has increased the number of buildings that achieved federal guiding principles for high performance and sustainable buildings. It has completed a biomass cogeneration facility in South Carolina and an 11.5 megawatt wind farm, both of which serve to reduce the use of non-renewable energy. DOE was also recognized as a 2014 GreenGov Presidential Award Winner for its work with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to produce a five percent reduction in DOT's total fuel consumption, and a 20 percent increase in DOT's use of alternative fuels.


 
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