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 Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 11, 2017, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) issued its June Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).  EIA considered EPA’s recent rulemakings on the 2017 RFS volume requirements and proposed 2018 RFS volume requirements when developing its STEO for 2017 and 2018
 
Biodiesel production averaged 101,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2016, and, according to EIA, is expected to increase to an average of 105,000 b/d in 2017 and to 109,000 b/d in 2018.  Biomass-based diesel imports are expected to fall from 54,000 b/d in 2016 to 53,000 b/d in 2017 but rise to 59,000 b/d in 2018.
 
Ethanol production averaged 1.0 million b/d in 2016 and is expected to average slightly above 1.0 million b/d in 2017, which would be a record, but will likely decline slightly in 2018.  Ethanol consumption averaged about 940,000 b/d in 2016 and is forecast to increase slightly in 2017 and 2018.  As a result, the ethanol share of the total gasoline pool will increase to nearly 10.1% in both 2017 and 2018.  Only marginal increases in higher-level ethanol blends are assumed to occur during the STEO forecast period.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On March 29, 2017, the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) released a statement claiming that the Coordinating Research Council’s (CRC) study on fuel emissions was biased and flawed.  According to UAI, the match blending of test fuels in the study fails to recognize the performance of ethanol in real world fuels, including improving fuel quality and reducing toxic tailpipe emissions.  UAI stated that performing match blending in a lab using a custom test fuel rather than real world fuel discredits the study, and the inaccurate data would likely lead EPA to continue to limit the use of higher ethanol blends.  To encourage the development of more accurate information, UAI is working on a guidance document to assist researchers to better understand the changes in fuel properties when evaluating ethanol and emissions to ensure that lab test fuels match the fuels in use.


 

 

On March 14, 2017, researchers from the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE) published a study focused on quantifying the economic and environmental impacts of second generation biofuels, based on current and future scenarios of sugarcane biorefineries that include consideration of improvements to the industrial process and biomass production systems.  Although costs were determined to be higher in the short term, the study demonstrates that second generation ethanol production is more competitive than first generation ethanol in the long run, and that it reduces climate change impacts by more than 80 percent compared to gasoline.  According to the researchers, the results should stimulate incentives and funding programs that support the production and consumption of second generation ethanol. 


 

On March 2, 2017, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reintroduced the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Reform Act, which aims to guide the debate and reform of the ethanol mandate.  According to Goodlatte, the RFS program failed to lower prices at the pump and resulted in unintended and profound effects on consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, retailers, and the environment.  The RFS Reform Act, which had 42 bipartisan cosponsors, would eliminate corn-based ethanol requirements, place a ten percent cap on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline, require EPA to set cellulosic biofuels targets at levels produced by the industry, and decrease the total volume of renewable fuel content in gasoline sold or introduced into commerce from 2017 through 2022.


 

On March 7, 2017, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition sent a letter to President Trump requesting the Administration’s support for changes to various federal policies to strengthen biofuels production and expand markets for ethanol and other biofuels.  The letter, which was signed by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, specifically highlights the need for the Trump Administration to change the fuel volatility limitations placed on E15, to update corn ethanol’s lifecycle carbon emissions profile to reflect advances in ethanol production technology, and to update the 2014 motor vehicle emission simulator model to prohibit spurious comparisons of high- and low-ethanol emissions factors.  The governors commended Trump on his support of the biofuels industry over the past year and stated that expanding biofuels production is one of the best ways to meet the nation’s energy needs.


 

On February 22, 2016, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) published the results of a study on the impact of the ethanol industry on the U.S. economy.  The study, which was commissioned by ABF Economics, found that the U.S. ethanol industry contributed over $42 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and supported 340,000 jobs in 2016.  Additionally, the report states that the ethanol industry provided significant contributions in terms of displacing imported crude oil and petroleum products, and generating tax revenue. 

According to the report, the U.S. produced 15.2 billion gallons of ethanol in 2016, which resulted in:

■  Nearly $14.5 billion to the U.S. economy from manufacturing;
 
■   More than $22.5 billion in income for American households;
 
■  An estimated $4.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $3.6 billion in revenue to state and local governments; and
 
■  The displacement of 510 million barrels of imported oil.

 
■  Fuels America, “America’s Biofuel Advocates Reject Effort to Derail Renewable Fuel Standard
 
■   The Hill, “House GOP to Prioritize Ethanol, Pipeline Legislation
 
Premier Jay Wetherill, “State Government to Support Legalisation of Industrial Hemp
 
Oil Price, Biofuels May be the Future of the Aviation Industry
 
Princeton University, Schmidt Fund Awards Go to Projects with Transformative Potential
 
Phys.org, “Biofuel Produced by Microalgae
 
■  VietNamNet, “Challenges in Switch to E5 Biofuel

 

On January 25, 2017, the Urban Air Initiative (UAI), along with the Energy Future Coalition and the states of Kansas and Nebraska, filed a request for correction of information petitioning EPA to correct its models on motor vehicle fuel emissions that limit the use of higher blends of ethanol.  In the petition, UAI claims that EPA continues to publish inaccurate data regarding ethanol emissions that originated with its fuel effects study and vehicular emissions computer model, MOVES2014, and describes the fundamental flaws in the design of the study.  UAI relied on peer reviewed scientific studies to refute EPA’s ethanol emissions estimates, and called on EPA to respond to the request within 90 days.


 

On January 12, 2017, USDA released a report on the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of corn ethanol, titled “A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol.”  The study reviewed industry and farm sector performance over the past decade and found that in the United States corn-based ethanol generates 43 percent less GHG emissions than gasoline.  Compared to previous studies, the lifecycle GHG benefits were greater due to improvements in corn production efficiency, conservation practices, and ethanol production technologies.  The report also presented two projected GHG emissions profiles for corn ethanol in 2022, with one assuming a continuation of observable trends and the other analyzing additional improvements that could further reduce the GHG emissions.


 
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