By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 29, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Federal Register notice it is seeking public comment on the use of isobutanol in gasoline. EPA specifically seeks comment on issues to consider regarding an application submitted by Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC (Butamax), a manufacturer of isobutanol, pursuant to the regulations titled “Registration of Fuels and Fuel Additives” for the registration of isobutanol as a gasoline additive at up to 16 volume percent, and any supplemental actions EPA should consider under the Clean Air Act (CAA). EPA states that Butamax’s information would likely satisfy the applicable registration requirements, and, due to the likelihood of this registration, there is potential for the widespread introduction of isobutanol into commerce. Further information on biobutanol, the common name for isobutanol made from renewable sources, is available in the Federal Register notice. Comments are due by April 30, 2018.
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 Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
During a visit to New Hampshire on February 13, 2018, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt provided Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH) a letter announcing EPA's efforts to work towards a carbon-neutral policy for biomass and clarify federal procurement recommendations for responsibly managed forests. According to Pruitt, EPA recognizes the importance of the forest products industry to the State of New Hampshire and is focused on clarifying regulations that were encumbering the industry. Following the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, which directs EPA to recognize proactively forest biomass as a renewable agency source and establish policies that reflect its carbon neutrality, a multi-agency effort was initiated between EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a mechanism for federal cooperation and consistency on the use of biomass. To support this effort, EPA aims to ensure its federal procurement recommendations encompass the broad reach of responsibly managed forests and ensure parity with or deferral to the USDA mandatory purchasing requirements established under the Biopreferred Program. Additionally, EPA is incorporating into its ongoing review of, and improvement to, Clean Air Act permitting programs a concerted effort to develop a range of options consistent with a carbon-neutral policy for biomass from forests and other lands and sectors.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On January 17, 2018, the European Parliament (EP) adopted the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), which includes draft measures to raise the share of renewable energy to 35 percent by 2030. Additionally, the lawmakers voted to exclude biofuels produced from palm oil from consideration of European Union (EU) Renewable Energy targets and to cap other crop-based fuels at their current levels. The exclusion of palm oil-derived biofuels would not ban or limit the production of such biofuels in the EU. The EP vote does not represent a final decision, but rather sets the EP position for negotiations with the Council of Ministers and the European Commission (EC).
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On December 27, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to approve new fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Specifically, EPA is proposing to amend RFS regulations to define the term “distillers sorghum oil” and to add approved pathways from the production of biodiesel and heating oil from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process. Distillers sorghum oil is grain sorghum oil extracted at any point downstream from sorghum grinding at dry mill ethanol plants.
The proposed rule outlines EPA’s analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with certain biofuels produced from distiller sorghum oil. Based on its assessment, EPA determined that using distillers sorghum oil as feedstock results in no significant agricultural sector GHG emissions, and that biodiesel and heating oil produced from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and LPG produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process, would meet the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel under the RFS program. Comments on the analysis are due by January 26, 2018.
In addition to EPA approval of the new pathway, producers may wish to confirm that the final sorghum-based product and all intermediates are listed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory or covered by an exemption prior to commercialization. While naturally occurring substances are automatically added to the TSCA Inventory, the TSCA “naturally occurring exemption” is very narrow. Specifically, a naturally occurring substance includes “any chemical substance which is naturally occurring and: (1) [w]hich is (i) unprocessed or (ii) processed only by manual, mechanical, or gravitational means; by dissolution in water; by flotation; or by heating solely to remove water; or (2) [w]hich is extracted from air by any means.”
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On December 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: Standards for 2018 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019 final rule. This final rule sets the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in 2018, as well as biomass-based diesel for 2019. As reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post EPA Issues Final 2018 RFS Requirements, the final volume requirements are:
- Cellulosic biofuel, from 311 million gallons in 2017 to 288 million gallons in 2018;
- Advanced biofuel, from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 4.29 billion gallons in 2018;
- Renewable fuel, from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017 to 19.29 billion gallons in 2018; and
- Biomass-based diesel, 2.1 billion gallons in 2018 and 2019.
These final volumes change the percentage standards to 0.159 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.37 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.67 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.74 percent for biomass-based diesel. This final rule becomes effective on February 12, 2018.
Additionally, EPA announced the availability of its “Periodic Reviews for the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.” Pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA must conduct periodic reviews of certain aspects of the RFS program. In the report, EPA describes its interpretation of the statutory requirement to conduct periodic reviews, and prior actions that EPA has taken to fulfill its obligations to conduct such reviews.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On December 8, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register regarding its plans to submit an information collection request (ICR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on recordkeeping and reporting for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The notices states that the ICR aims to streamline and update estimates related to the RFS program and consolidate all RFS estimates into one, consistent, and easy-to-understand format.
EPA is seeking public comment and information to enable it to:
- Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;
- Evaluate the accuracy of EPA’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
- Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
- Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
According to the notice, EPA intends to amend the ICR based on the comments received. More information regarding the ICR is available in the EPA docket
. Comments are due by February 6, 2018