On May 6, 2014, the National Research Council (NRC) released a Congressionally mandated, EPA-sponsored report finding that EPA has made "substantial improvements" to its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) since 2011. While the report acknowledges these improvements, it provides recommendations for further IRIS enhancements. For instance, according to the National Academies' press release on the report, "to ensure that the IRIS program provides the best assessments possible, the committee recommended that EPA develop a plan for strategically updating its methodology, systematically addressing any identified inefficiencies, and continually evaluating whether the IRIS teams have the appropriate expertise and training."
The National Academies' press release is available online. The EPA press release on the report is available online. The report is available for purchase or can be read online.
This week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP), a collaboration of 13 federal agencies and myriad academia, issued its third National Climate Assessment. The 841 page report and a summary of its highlights are available online.
This report is significant because compared to previous reports it more definitively attributes human activity as the cause of increased climate change, which is causing more severe weather. The report asserts that climate change is here now and will have more and more devastating impacts throughout the country. It is not a future event. Additionally, it more strongly links climate change to severe weather.
The Administration reportedly is hopeful that the report will help motivate action on climate change. It may be working to some extent as two prominent Republicans -- former Utah Governor and Presidential Candidate John Huntsman, and Lee Thomas, an EPA Administrator under the Regan Administration -- authored op-eds published on May 7, 2014, urging Republicans to accept climate change and offer leadership on the issue.
The EU has launched a new four-year research project called Bio-Qed, which will focus on developing biobased chemicals from renewable sources. The project has ten partners from Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Croatia, and Spain.
On February 20, 2014, Lux Research released a new report, "Cultivating Capacity for Bio-Based Materials and Chemicals Through 2017." According to the report, the U.S. is on track to become the leader in global biobased materials and chemicals by 2017, with production expected to double between now and then. First generation feedstocks are expected to remain the main source of biobased feedstocks by 2017.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has awarded more than $3 million in funding to four research institutions to study how chemicals behave when they come into contact with biological systems. The projects will focus on developing better models that predict the connection between exposures to chemicals and the chain of events that lead to an unwanted health effect. The results are expected to assist EPA in its mission to protect human health and the environment, to inform and impact EPA's chemical safety research, and to develop solutions for more sustainable chemicals and use computational science to understand the relationship between chemical exposures and health outcomes. A copy of EPA's press release is available online.
On February 5, 2014, Purdue University announced that three researchers in the University's colleges of Engineering and Science received more than $130,000 from the Trask Innovation Fund to develop their work. One of these researchers was awarded $50,000 for "Selective Catalysis for the Production of High Value Flavor and Fragrance Chemicals from Wood Biomass." A copy of Purdue University's press release is available online.
On October 28, 2013, DuPont announced the start of the second phase of its China Research and Development Center. The Center will focus on the development of biobased materials, among other things. A copy of DuPont's press release on the announcement is available online.
RFA sponsored a study released this month by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The study is available online. In the study, NREL analyzed various studies on the effects of E15 use in Model Year 2001 and newer cars and found no meaningful difference in the use of E10 and E15 in those vehicles. This is a significant finding because many in the oil and gas industries, among others, have warned of potentially harmful effects of using E15 in cars. EPA has approved E15 for use in Model Year 2001 and newer vehicles. Many in the biofuels industry have argued that, if more widely used, E15 could be one potential way to overcome the E10 blend wall, because it would allow for greater blending of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply.
On Monday, September 30, 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it intends to award $100 million for cutting edge energy research in areas including biofuels as part of its Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC). In 2009, DOE granted five-year awards ranging from $2 million to $5 million per year to each of 46 EFRCs throughout the country. The current Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is available online. Under the FOA, applicants must submit a letter of intent to apply by November 13, 2013, and applications are due by January 9, 2014. Existing and new EFRCs may apply.
The $100 million for this program is part of DOE's Fiscal Year 2014 funding request. Whether DOE is provided the funds is uncertain, especially given the government shutdown and standstill in Congress on passing a Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
Unilever announced this week its new partnership with the University of Liverpool for a three-year research project designed to develop renewable chemicals "from the surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes, creating a cent[er] of excellence in the identification of sustainably sourced ingredients that it is hoped will end up in the production of some of the world's most familiar brands." The company's press release on the partnership is available online.