By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On September 12, 2022, President Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order creating a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative “that will ensure we can make in the United States all that we invent in the United States.” On September 14, 2022, the White House will host a Summit on the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative during which cabinet agencies will announce a wide range of new investments and resources that will allow the United States to harness the full potential of biotechnology and biomanufacturing and advance the President’s Executive Order.
According to a White House fact sheet, the initiative will accelerate biotechnology innovation and grow America’s bioeconomy across multiple sectors in industries such as health, agriculture, and energy. It will “drive advances in biomanufacturing that substitute fragile supply chains from abroad with strong chains at home, anchored by well-paying jobs in communities all across America.” It will improve food and energy security, and promote agricultural innovation while mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Specifically, the initiative will:
- Grow Domestic Biomanufacturing Capacity: The initiative will build, revitalize, and secure national infrastructure for biomanufacturing across America, including through investments in regional innovation and enhanced bio-education, while strengthening the U.S. supply chain that produces domestic fuels, chemicals, and materials.
- Expand Market Opportunities for Biobased Products: The fact sheet notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred Program “is the standard for sustainable procurement by government agencies, both providing an alternative to petroleum-based products and supporting good-paying jobs for American workers.” The initiative will increase mandatory biobased purchasing by federal agencies and ensure that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and USDA regularly publish progress assessments. The fact sheet states that doing so “will provide specific directions to industry about gaps in biobased product options, leading to the creation of new products and new markets.” Together, the initiative will grow and strengthen the BioPreferred Program, increase the use of renewable agricultural materials, and “position American companies to continue to lead the world in bio-innovation.”
- Drive Research and Development (R&D) to Solve Our Greatest Challenges: According to the fact sheet, focused government support for biotechnology can quickly produce solutions, “as seen with the first-of-their-kind mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This initiative directs federal agencies to identify priority R&D needs to translate bioscience and biotechnology discoveries into medical breakthroughs, climate change solutions, food and agricultural innovation, and stronger U.S. supply chains.
- Improve Access to Quality Federal Data: Combining biotechnology with massive computing power and artificial intelligence can produce significant breakthroughs for health, energy, agriculture, and the environment. The Data for the Bioeconomy Initiative will ensure that biotechnology developers have streamlined access to high-quality, secure, and wide-ranging biological data sets that can drive solutions to urgent societal and global problems.
- Train a Diverse Skilled Workforce: The United States is facing a shortage of relevant talent spanning all levels, from community college to graduate school. The initiative will expand training and education opportunities for all Americans in biotechnology and biomanufacturing, with a focus on advancing racial and gender equity and support for talent development in underserved communities.
- Streamline Regulations for Products of Biotechnology: Advances in biotechnology are rapidly altering the agricultural, industrial, technological, and medical products landscape, which can create challenges for developers and innovators. The initiative will improve the clarity and efficiency of the regulatory process for products of biotechnology so that valuable inventions and products can come to market faster without sacrificing safety.
- Advance Biosafety and Biosecurity to Reduce Risk: The initiative will prioritize investments in applied biosafety research and incentivize innovations in biosecurity to reduce risk throughout the biotechnology R&D lifecycles.
- Protect the U.S. Biotechnology Ecosystem: The initiative will protect the U.S. biotechnology ecosystem by advancing privacy standards and practices for human biological data, cybersecurity practices for biological data, standards development for bio-related software, and mitigation measures for risks posed by foreign adversary involvement in the biomanufacturing supply chain.
- Build a Thriving, Secure Global Bioeconomy with Partners and Allies: According to the fact sheet, the initiative advances international cooperation to leverage biotechnology and biomanufacturing to tackle the most urgent global challenges -- from climate change to health security -- and to work together to ensure that biotechnology product development and use aligns with our shared democratic ethics and values, and that biotechnology breakthroughs benefit all citizens.
The White House has posted a transcript of the press call announcing the Executive Order.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On March 16, 2022, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on “Bioenergy Research and Development for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow.” According to the hearing charter, the purpose of the hearing is to examine the status of bioenergy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The hearing will also consider advancements in bioenergy research and the potential role of this resource in a cleaner energy transition. Lastly, the hearing will help inform future legislation to support and guide the United States’ bioenergy RD&D enterprise. Witnesses will include:
- Dr. Jonathan Male, Chief Scientist for Energy Processes and Materials, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL);
- Dr. Andrew Leakey, Director of the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign;
- Dr. Laurel Harmon, Vice President of Government Affairs, LanzaTech; and
- Dr. Eric Hegg, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University.
The hearing charter notes that in addition to fuels, biomass can be used to create valuable chemicals and materials, known as “bioproducts.” According to the hearing charter, approximately 16 percent of U.S. crude oil consumption is used to make petrochemicals and products, such as plastics for industrial and consumer goods, fertilizers, and lubricants. Common biobased products include household cleaners, paints and stains, personal care items, plastic bottles and containers, packaging materials, soaps and detergents, lubricants, clothing, and building materials. The hearing charter states that the production of bioproducts relies on much of the same feedstocks, infrastructure, feedstock commoditization, and technologies that are central to biofuels production. Therefore, according to DOE, once technologies are proven for bioproduct applications, they could be readily transferred and greatly improve biofuel production.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will hold a hearing on October 27, 2021, on “TSCA and Public Health: Fulfilling the Promise of the Lautenberg Act.” According to the October 20, 2021, press release issued by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chair of the Committee, and Paul Tonko (D-NY), Chair of the Subcommittee, stated that the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act) made “crucial” reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) “that improve how the federal government protects Americans from dangerous chemicals, and now we must ensure those reforms are implemented effectively and honestly.” Pallone and Tonko stated that during the previous administration, “chemical risk evaluations were skewed in favor of industry to the detriment of workers and communities. We must protect consumers from exposure to toxic substances and ensure the Environmental Protection Agency is using the tools Congress granted it to protect public health.” The Subcommittee will discuss the implementation of the Lautenberg Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “efforts to get TSCA back on track.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On November 18, 2020, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and encourage low-carbon fuel production. Titled “The Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registration Act,” this bill would eliminate existing barriers for biofuels plants to increase production of cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels. Representative Bustos criticized the lack of timely response from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adding that through this bill, “we can encourage the use of cellulosic biomass in low-carbon, renewable fuel production and continue to create cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuels.” The legislation would ensure that EPA acts on outstanding applications under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and compel EPA to accept applications if the fuel could participate in at least one state’s clean transportation program. Biofuels industry stakeholders have demonstrated support for the bill.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
This June, the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis released a report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” Providing a road map for Congress to follow, the action plan has three main goals:
- Reaching 100 percent clean, net zero emissions economy-wide in the U.S. by 2050;
- Establishing ambitious interim targets to assess progress and reduce pollution in environmental justice communities; and
- Achieving net-negative emissions during the second half of the century.
The action plan consists of a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for Congressional action aggressively to reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible while making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change and building a clean energy economy. Successfully implemented, the Select Committee’s action plan would at minimum:
- Reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions before 2050;
- Reduce net U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 37 percent below 2010 levels in 2030 and 88 percent below 2010 levels in 2050;
- Avoid 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050; and
- Provide almost $8 trillion in cumulative climate and health benefits through 2050.
The Climate Crisis Action Plan calls on Congress not only to grow the U.S. economy and put Americans to work in clean energy jobs, but also to protect family health, protect U.S. land and waters for the next generation, and ensure that communities and farmers can withstand climate change impacts. The full report is available here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 28, 2020, U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) introduced the Clean Fuels Deployment Act of 2020, which would fund installation and conversion of fuel pump infrastructure to deliver higher blends of biofuel. Co-sponsored by Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Roger Marshall (R-KS), this bipartisan bill creates a clean fuels grant program with $600 million over a six-year period to help biofuel retailers. The plan is to assist retailers to offer higher ethanol blends; expand the geographic area selling ethanol blends; accelerate the deployment of fueling infrastructure; and support biodiesel, bioheat, and sustainable aviation fuel markets. A number of biofuels and energy associations and companies are in support of the bill. Thanking Representative Finkenauer for introducing the bill, Kelly Nieuwenhuis, representing the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), stated that the Clean Fuels Deployment Act will “expand long-term economic opportunities for farmers and biofuels producers.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On January 29, 2020, Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and other House Democrats unveiled a five-year, $760 billion investment framework to repair and upgrade the U.S. infrastructure to create jobs while reducing carbon pollution, improving safety, and supporting economic activity. Called the “Moving Forward Framework for the People,” the plan includes measures to increase climate resiliency and put the United States on a path toward zero carbon pollution from transportation. The House Democratic proposal outlines a number of major investments, which include repairs and upgrades to surface transportation, rail and transit systems, airports, ports and harbors, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, brownfields, and broadband. According to Congressman Tonko’s press release, the proposed infrastructure framework would:
- Bring existing infrastructure into a state of good repair and enable the completion of critical projects through long-term, sustainable funding;
- Set a path toward zero carbon pollution from the transportation sector, creating jobs, protecting our natural resources, promoting environmental justice, and increasing resiliency to climate change;
- Ensure a transportation system that is green, affordable, reliable, and efficient and provide access to jobs;
- Provide safe, clean, and affordable water and wastewater services;
- Prioritize the safety of the traveling public;
- Help combat climate change by creating well-paying jobs in clean energy, investing in energy efficiency, and reducing GHG pollution;
- Expand broadband Internet access, including adoption for unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities;
- Modernize 9-1-1 public safety networks;
- Create family-wage jobs using the Davis-Bacon Act and other strong worker protections; and
- Support U.S. industries, including steel and manufacturing, through strong Buy America protections.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On November 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. (EST), the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing on “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in EPA Rulemaking.” The Committee will hear from the following witnesses:
- Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD); EPA Science Advisor.
- Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Director of NIEHS, 2009-2019;
- Dr. Mary B. Rice, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center;
- Dr. David Allison, Dean, School of Public Health, Indiana University-Bloomington; Member, “Reproducibility and Replicability in Science” Committee, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and
- Dr. Todd Sherer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On September 10, 2019, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on the clean energy economy. In a notice, the Subcommittee stated that there are growing opportunities for small companies, including farmers, to respond to energy challenges through new and innovative solutions. The clean energy economy covers many industries that are dominated by small businesses, including construction, agriculture, and renewable energy sectors. The Committee explored the economic opportunities for small businesses that come through efforts to address unpredictable weather patterns, reduce fossil fuel consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency. Witnesses shared how small businesses are growing and creating well-paying jobs within clean energy sectors, as well as what they need to continue to succeed. Testifying before the committee were Lynn Abramson, President, Clean Energy Business Network; Thomas Brooks, General Manager, Western Dubuque Biodiesel LLC; Michael Williams, Deputy Director, BlueGreen Alliance; and David Spigelmyer, President, Marcellus Shale Coalition. Hearing information, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing are available online.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 25, 2019, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Zero Waste Act, which intends to create a federal grant program to invest in solutions that address waste. The bill, if passed, will go towards recycling infrastructure or the creation of partnerships with local businesses focused on waste reduction. Representative Omar believes the bill will not only create jobs, but also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, grow domestic manufacturing, clean waterways, save energy, ensure safety from health hazards, and grow the U.S. economy. Omar’s bill has been endorsed by several organizations, including the City of Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling, Climate Generation, and Surfrider Foundation, among others. Presenting this bill through the lens that waste is an environmental justice issue, Representative Omar stated that “[a]ddressing the waste crisis is critical to preventing further damage to our climate—it is integral to racial justice and a clean, equitable future.” At a time where climate change debates have been of high interest to the U.S. population, in particular as the presidential candidate debates continue, it will be interesting to see whether this bill is passed. The full text of the bill can be accessed here.