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.


 

On August 10, 2016, Red Trail Energy, LLC, a North Dakota ethanol producer, announced that it, along with the Energy & Environmental Research Center, had been awarded $490,000 to examine the integration of carbon capture and storage (CCS). The study will consist of installing and operating a commercial CCS system in a facility producing approximately 63 million gallons of ethanol and 180,000 tons of CO2, and tracking the technical and economic parameters required. The total project is expected to cost $980,000. "North Dakota ethanol producers are well-situated to take advantage of these low-carbon fuel incentives because there is significant production capacity and ideal geology for carbon storage," said project manager Kerryanne Leroux, EERC Senior Chemical Engineer, Oilfield Operations Team Lead. Further, "[t]he study will provide local ethanol producers a detailed assessment of the commercial feasibility of utilizing CCS technology within their production operations." The project will also provide a template for implementation of CCS technology statewide, promoting renewable energy production in North Dakota.


 

On May 23, 2016, USDA announced that a team of U.S. ethanol industry leaders would travel to Mexico with Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse to explore opportunities to expand the United States' and Mexico's renewable energy industries. The trip occurred on May 24-25, 2016, with mission participants sharing their experiences with ethanol production and developing renewable fuel policies. The goal of the trip was to demonstrate how Mexico can implement its own renewable fuels program by taking advantage of Mexican grown sugarcane. Supporting the development of a Mexican ethanol industry will provide mutual benefits to citizens from both Mexico and the U.S., through access to an increased quantity of inexpensive renewable energy that reduces dependence on foreign oil.


 

On April 27, 2016, the Iowa Senate voted 49-0 to extend the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) through June 30, 2017. The legislation, House File 2464, was passed by the Iowa House 94-0 and provides funding for cost-share grants to upgrade fueling infrastructure. RFIP covers up to 70 percent of the installation cost of E15, E85, or biodiesel blend fuel pumps for Iowa retailers, up to $50,000 per project. "While we were hopeful for a long-term funding solution for the state's renewable fuels infrastructure program, we're very pleased today that the Iowa legislature was able to keep this vital initiative going for another year," stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Policy Director Grant Menke. "The [U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA)] Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership re-energized many Iowa retailers, leading to record participation in the blender pump program over the past year. This one-year funding extension allows us to build upon this momentum and ensure Iowans have greater access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels." The current source of RFIP funding is ending after this extension, so there is still need for a long-term solution to helping retailers supply more renewable fuels and higher ethanol blends to consumers.


 

On April 8, 2016, Reuters reported that Argentina is planning on increasing the required percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 12 percent to 26 percent. Specific targets have not yet been created for increasing the required ethanol blend, but Argentina has been increasing the required ethanol percentage to reduce energy deficits and boost its economy. Argentina first created an ethanol mandate at five percent in 2010, and has increased the percentage incrementally since then. The increase of 14 percent, from 12 percent to 26 percent, is expected to result in $400 million in investments, and is also expected to streamline automaker operations, as many cars are produced for both the Argentinian and Brazilian markets.


 

On February 16, 2016, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to two recent reports on ethanol and renewable fuels. The first report was published by USDA and is on "2015 Energy Balance for the Corn-Ethanol Industry," and the second report comes from the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) and is a "Literature Review of Estimated Market Effects of U.S. Corn Starch Ethanol." Both studies demonstrate the growth of the United States' renewable energy industry with improved ethanol and biodiesel production resulting in doubled renewable energy production and a reduction in foreign oil imports. The energy used to produce corn has fallen as well, which has made the production of ethanol more efficient so that "more energy is being produced from ethanol than is used to produce it, by factors of 2 to 1 nationally and by factors of 4 to 1 in the Midwest." Both studies point towards a solid future of growth and innovation for the U.S. renewable energy industry.


 

On January 14, 2016, a report titled "Biobased Chemicals: The Iowa Opportunity" was released by Iowa's Cultivation Corridor and the Iowa Biotechnology Association at the Iowa Statehouse. This report is based on research by Iowa State University professors and outlines opportunities for Iowa to capitalize on bioprocessing developments in the United States. While Iowa has the advantage of a strong biofuel industry, there is still a need for the Iowa legislature to address the needs of the bio renewables industry beyond ethanol production to take full advantage of the $250 billion domestic chemical market.


 

In a settlement with the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to set renewable fuel obligations for calendar years 2014 and 2015 by November 30, 2015, under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  The RFS requires annual increases in the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into the total volume of gasoline refined and consumed in the U.S. 

A current TV ad featured on the Smarter Fuel Future Coalition’s website and sponsored by The American Council for Capital Formation, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the National Council of Chain Restaurants makes the following statements:  ‘‘Mandating corn for ethanol doubles greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline over 30 years,’’ and ‘‘Mounting scientific evidence has revealed the inconvenient truth: Increasing ethanol mandates can actually make things worse.’’  This ramping up of press on anti-ethanol mandates is not surprising given the upcoming deadline.

EPA, the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), and other scientists and federal regulators have been studying carbon emissions from ethanol for many years.  In 2007, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), through the Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model developed by Dr. Michael Wang, Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation, determined that ethanol produced at newer plants, using natural gas or biogas, would have emissions 20 percent lower than gasoline in the ethanol brochure Ethanol:  The Complete Energy Lifecycle Picture: ‘‘[T]he preponderance of the recent studies show that ethanol has a positive net fossil energy value,’’ meaning its use results in lower emissions. 

EPA’s 2010 regulatory announcement, EPA Lifecycle Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Renewable Fuels, stated that EPA is making threshold determinations based on a methodology that includes an analysis of the full lifecycle of various fuels, including emissions from international land-use changes resulting from increased biofuel demand.  The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) requires EPA to analyze lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from increased renewable fuels use as part of revisions to the RFS program.  The regulatory purpose of EPA’s lifecycle GHG emissions analysis, therefore, was to determine whether renewable fuels produced under varying conditions meet the GHG thresholds for the different categories of renewable fuel. 

In 2011, a Friends of the Earth report entitled Corn Ethanol and Climate Change:  How the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates the consumption of biofuels that contribute to climate change stated that “scientific analysis … proves that the net greenhouse gas impact of corn ethanol is much worse than that of gasoline.”  It also states, however, that “EPA’s final analysis of the [RFS] presents many different hypothetical emission scenarios for corn ethanol that may or may not achieve reductions in greenhouse gases in the future.” 

In several letters issued this year from EPA to renewable fuel producers in response to their “Efficient Producer” petitions to approve a new pathway for the generation of renewable fuels under the RFS program for the production of non-grandfathered ethanol, EPA stated that its analysis indicated that the ethanol/corn ethanol produced would result in “at least a 20 percent GHG emissions reduction compared to the baseline lifecycle GHG emissions,” the threshold for lifecycle GHG emissions for any renewable fuel produced at new facilities under EISA. 

The Biobased and Renewable Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) recent Biobased Products Blog post, EPA’s Office of Inspector General Orders New Ethanol Emissions Study, discusses EPA’s Office of Inspector General’s plans to begin preliminary research on the lifecycle impacts of EPA’s RFS.  It is unclear, however, whether this study will affect EPA’s renewable fuel obligations expected to be set at the end of November.

More information on RFS issues is available on BRAG’s website under topic “RFS.”

 

 


 

In a memorandum dated October 15, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated that it plans to begin preliminary research on the lifecycle impacts of EPA’s renewable fuel standard (RFS). 

The stated objectives from the memorandum are to determine whether EPA:  (1) complied with the reporting requirements of laws authorizing the RFS; and (2) updated the lifecycle analysis supporting the RFS with findings from the statutorily mandated National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) 2011 study on biofuels entitled Renewable Fuel Standard, Potential Economic and Environmental Effects of U.S. Biofuel Policy (NAS Study), EPA’s 2011 Biofuels and the Environment: First Triennial Report to Congress (2011 Report), and any subsequent reports or relevant research on lifecycle impacts of biofuels.  OIG plans to perform this work within EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and Office of Research and Development.               

The NAS Study makes the following key finding in terms of the environmental effects of increasing biofuel production:  “The environmental effects of increasing biofuel production largely depend on feedstock type, site-specific factors (such as soil and climate), management practices used in feedstock production, land condition prior to feedstock production, and conversion yield.  Some effects are local and others are regional or global.  A systems approach that considers various environmental effects simultaneously and across spatial and temporal scales is necessary to provide an assessment of the overall environmental outcome of increasing biofuel production.”  Further, “[a]lthough using biofuels holds promise to provide net environmental benefits compared to using petroleum-based fuels, the environmental outcome of biofuel production cannot be guaranteed without a landscape and life-cycle vision of where and how the bioenergy feedstocks will be grown to meet the [revised standards (RFS2)] consumption mandate.  Such landscape and life-cycle vision would contribute to minimizing the potential of negative direct and indirect land-use and land-cover changes, encouraging placement of cellulosic feedstock production in areas that can enhance soil quality or help reduce agricultural nutrient runoffs, anticipating and reducing the potential of groundwater overdraft, and enhancing wildlife habitats.”

EPA’s 2011 Report, actualized by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, requires EPA to revise the RFS program to increase the volume of renewable fuel blended into transportation fuel from nine billion gallons per year in 2008 to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022.  It concludes that:  (1) the extent of negative impacts to date were limited in magnitude, and are primarily associated with the intensification of corn production; (2) whether future impacts are positive or negative will be determined by the choice of feedstock, land use change, cultivation, and conservation practices; and (3) realizing potential benefits will require implementation and monitoring of conservation and best management practices, improvements in production efficiency, and implementation of innovative technologies at commercial scales.  Biofuels compared included conventional and cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.

More information on other biobased issues and RFS issues is available on Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) Biobased Products, Biotechnology web page and its Fuel and Fuel Additives web page.


 

On September 25, 2015, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to amend the Biofuel Development and In-State Production Incentive Act by removing a ten percent ethanol blend requirement that occurs when Pennsylvania ethanol production exceeds 350 million gallons. The Act was originally passed in 2008. Since the incentive was put in place, Pennsylvania has not come close to reaching the 350 million gallon threshold. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.


 
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