By Lynn L. Bergeson
On May 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it was seeking nominations for candidates to fill vacancies on the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee (Committee). The Federal Register notice states that:
The committee members may serve two, three-year terms and committee membership must include: (A) An individual affiliated with the biofuels industry; (B) an individual affiliated with the biobased industrial and commercial products industry; (C) an individual affiliated with an institution of higher education that has expertise in biofuels and biobased products; (D) 2 prominent engineers or scientists from government (non-federal) or academia that have expertise in biofuels and biobased products; (E) an individual affiliated with a commodity trade association; (F) 2 individuals affiliated with environmental or conservation organizations; (G) an individual associated with state government who has expertise in biofuels and biobased products; (H) an individual with expertise in energy and environmental analysis; (I) an individual with expertise in the economics of biofuels and biobased products; (J) an individual with expertise in agricultural economics; (K) an individual with expertise in plant biology and biomass feedstock development; (L) an individual with expertise in agronomy, crop science, or soil science; and (M) at the option of the points of contact, other members.
Further, nominations this year are needed for the following categories: “(I) An individual with expertise in the economics of biofuels and biobased products; (H) an individual with expertise in energy and environmental analysis; and (J) an individual with expertise in agricultural economics.” The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2018.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On May 3, 2018, Jacor, LLC announced that five of its EcoBioClean® products earned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product label:
- EcoBioClean® 100 COSW with 95% biobased content;
- EcoBioClean® Pipes/Tanks 103 CE with 95% biobased content;
- EcoBioClean® Fresh Water 101 COFW with 95% biobased content;
- EcoBioClean® Land 102 COL with 95% biobased content; and
- EcoBioClean® Biological Waste 105 BW with 95% biobased content.
These products provide contamination cleanup solutions for crude oil spills and leaks, as well as lubricants, dispersants, cleaning solutions, tar, human waste, and more, in a variety of environments and temperatures. The USDA BioPreferred Program was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and expanded by the 2014 Farm Bill, and provides third-party verification of a product’s biobased content. This program was created to increase the development, purchase, and use of biobased products.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 28, 2018, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sonny Perdue issued a statement providing clarification on USDA’s oversight of plants produced through innovative new breeding techniques that include techniques called genome editing. The announcement states that under its biotechnology regulations, USDA “does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques as long as they are not plant pests or developed using plant pests,” which “includes a set of new techniques that are increasingly being used by plant breeders to produce new plant varieties that are indistinguishable from those developed through traditional breeding methods” and “[t]he newest of these methods, such as genome editing, expand traditional plant breeding tools because they can introduce new plant traits more quickly and precisely, potentially saving years or even decades in bringing needed new varieties to farmers.” Secretary Perdue stated that using this science, “farmers can continue to meet consumer expectations for healthful, affordable food produced in a manner that consumes fewer natural resources.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 28, 2018, Bioenergy Australia and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) released “Biofuels to bioproducts: A growth industry for Australia.” The paper calls for the implementation of a Five-Point Plan creating a bioenergy policy framework to spur growth in Ausralia’s bioeconomy. The paper also argues that the current lack of policy and programs encouraging the bioenergy industry have hurt Australia as it has missed out on economic, social, and environmental benefits that other countries have experienced as a result of bioeconomy growth. It is suggested that “increased use of 10 per cent ethanol-blended petrol (E10) in Australia could create more than 8600 direct & indirect jobs, attract $1.56 billion in investment and generate more than $1.1 billion in additional revenue each year in regional areas.” The researchers proposed a Five-Point Plan in the paper, which includes:
- Developing a national biofuels, biobased products, and bioeconomy strategy;
- Implementing a national biofuels mandate supporting the introduction of higher quality fuels;
- Providing supporting mechanisms of education, incentives, and infrastructure;
- Establishing policy frameworks for advanced/drop-in biofuels, biochemical, and biobased products; and
- Supporting commercial developments through industry and research collaboration.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its report on the economic impact of the biobased economy. The report, titled “Indicators of the U.S. Biobased Economy,” reviews data from 2011 and 2016 to analyze trends in the agricultural, bioenergy, renewable chemicals, and policy sectors. According to the analysis, the renewable chemicals and biobased products sector contributed 4.22 million jobs and an economic value of $393 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of products certified under the UDSA Biopreferred® program increased from 1,800 to 2,900. The analysis was commissioned by the USDA Office of the Chief Economist and prepared jointly by the Energy and Natural Resource Research Cluster at East Carolina University and the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) at North Carolina State University.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 1, 2018, the European Commission announced the approval of a €4.7 billion Italian support scheme for the production and distribution of advanced biofuels, including advanced biomethane, for use in the transport sector. Under the scheme, producers of advanced biomethane and biofuels will receive a premium to compensate for higher production costs compared to fossil fuels. The scheme will run from 2018 until 2022 and will be financed by transport fuel retailers who are required to blend a certain percentage of advanced biofuels and biomethane. According to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, “[t]he scheme will encourage the production and consumption of advanced biofuels in Italy, while limiting distortions of competition.” Additionally, the measure will help Italy reach its 2020 target for the use of renewable energy in transport under the European Union Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On January 31, 2018, the European Commission (EC) launched a new investigation into subsidized imports of biodiesel from Argentina. The investigation was initiated based on a complaint filed by the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) on behalf of producers representing over 25 percent of the European Union (EU) biodiesel production. The EC determined that the complaint includes sufficient evidence that the Argentinean biodiesel producers have benefitted from a number of subsidies granted by the Government of Argentina. The investigation provides another means for imposing tariffs on biodiesel imported from Argentina following successful challenges to the anti-dumping (AD) duties set in 2013. In September 2017, the EU reduced the AD duties for Argentinean biodiesel to between 4.5 and 8.1 percent, from initial rates of 22-25.7 percent.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On January 8, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue presented to President Donald Trump the findings of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The Task Force was established in 2017 following an Executive Order by President Trump to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities. According to the report, over 100 actions organized around five key topic areas, specifically e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, innovation and technology, and economic development, were identified.
Of the recommendations related to economic development, the Task Force identified regaining American energy dominance as a key objective. The report states that “[b]oosting production of all sources of energy from natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, and renewables is essential to America’s national security interest and rural America’s economy. The federal government must ensure a regulatory environment which can unleash this potential while keeping Americans safe and healthy.”
Regarding innovation and technology, the report recognizes biotechnology as “another area of U.S. leadership, being a sector that has driven innovation in fuels, chemicals, manufacturing, and agriculture.” The Task Force recommended that:
- The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other relevant agencies develop a communications strategy to increase acceptance of biotech products; and
- The federal government continue efforts to modernize the federal regulatory system for biotechnology products, particularly by:
- Coordinating the federal regulation of biotechnology products;
- Coordinating interagency action through the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and
- Expediting the commercialization of biotechnology products.