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 Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

First published last week, on November 25, 2019, the article titled “Consolidated Production of Coniferol and Other High-Value Aromatic Alcohols Directly from Lignocellulosic Biomass” has gained media attention across the globe. Given the finite geological oil reserves, the competition to identify alternative biobased and biorefinery processes continues to grow. According to the article, the aim in identifying such products is not only to find alternatives, but most importantly to “overcome significant costs and productivity barriers.” In the aforementioned article, published in the Green Chemistry Journal, scientists write about a novel technique using the biocatalytic production of coniferol (a versatile chemical block) directly from lignocellulosic biomass. The process to do so involves a biocatalytic treatment of lignocellulose, which releases and converts ferulic acid with feruloyl esterase (XynZ), carboxylic acid reductase (CAR), and aldo-keto reductase (AKR). This catalytic reaction achieves the equivalent release of ferulic acid from lignocellulose compared to alkaline hydrolysis, also displaying efficient conversion of ferulic acid to coniferol. Consolidating a biodegradation-biotransformation strategy for the production of high value fine chemicals from waste plant biomass, this novel process offers a potential to minimize environmental waste and add value to agro-industrial residues. A number of grants, including from the São Paulo Research Foundation and David Phillips Fellowship, supported the study outlined in the journal article. Grants of these types continue to arise as the need to address resource efficiency and, therefore, biobased chemical production has become the focus of various government agencies in many countries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for example, often provides scientist from all backgrounds similar opportunities.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 3, 2019, Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, signed an Executive Order that requires all new contracts for the purchase of state vehicles with diesel engines to have written support from the manufacturer to use B20 biodiesel (a mix of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum-based diesel) or more. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) started using biodiesel blends in 1994. B20 is used for most of the year already, in most equipment with a diesel engine, including motor graders and snowplows, among others. Largely contributing to Iowa’s job market and accounting for $568 million of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), Iowa’s biodiesel plants increased their biodiesel production by 20 percent by the end of 2018. Governor Reynolds stated: “Ethanol and biodiesel remain essential to the health of the agricultural economy, sustainable environmental commitments and employ thousands of Iowans. I am proud to stand alongside Iowa Farm Bureau and key stakeholders in the renewable fuels industry to secure the continued demand for biofuels.”

Tags: Iowa, Biofuel, B20, DOT

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 14, 2019, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced legislation seeking to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Growing Renewable Energy through Existing and New Environmentally Responsible (GREENER) Fuels Act is intended to mitigate the “harmful environmental impacts of the corn ethanol mandate,” according to a press release issued by the lawmakers. The bill would phase out the corn ethanol mandate and immediately reduce the amount of ethanol in fuel by as much as 1 billion gallons by capping the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 9.7 percent. The legislation also seeks to help farmers return cornfields to pasture and wildlife habitat through a 10 cents per renewable identification number (RIN) fee to fund a new Private Land Protection and Restoration Fund in the U.S. Treasury. The fund will help pay for Department of Interior (DOI) programs that pay for easements on private lands to keep them out of agricultural production; keep the lands in conservation uses like grass, forest, stream buffers, or pollinator habitat; and help farmers transition land currently in crop production into other uses. The GREENER Fuels Act also would extend the cellulosic and advanced next-generation biofuel mandate until 2 billion gallons of annual production is achieved or 2037, whichever is sooner, and alters the way the mandate is implemented to produce liquid transportation fuels that dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 15, 2019, EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed a supplemental notice of the proposed rule on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that proposes to establish the cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes for 2020 and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2021. Although the rule does not change the volumes for 2020 and 2021 proposed in July 2019, it proposes and seeks comment on adjustments to the way that annual renewable fuel percentages are calculated. Annual renewable fuel percentage standards are used to calculate the number of gallons each obligated party is required to blend into their fuel or to otherwise obtain renewable identification numbers (RIN) to demonstrate compliance. Specifically, EPA is seeking comment on projecting the volume of gasoline and diesel that will be exempt in 2020 due to small refinery exemptions based on a three-year average of the relief recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), including where DOE had recommended partial exemptions. EPA intends to grant partial exemptions in appropriate circumstances when adjudicating 2020 exemption petitions. EPA proposes to use this value to adjust the way it calculates renewable fuel percentages.

According to the prepublication notice, comments must be received on or prior to November 29, 2019. EPA will hold a public hearing in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on October 30, 2019, starting at 9:00 a.m. (EDT).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 4, 2019, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Sonny Perdue, announced President Trump’s negotiated agreement on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will undertake the following actions:

  • In a forthcoming supplemental notice building off the recently proposed 2020 Renewable Volume Standards and the Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2021, EPA will propose and request public comment on expanding biofuel requirements beginning in 2020.
    • EPA will seek comment on actions to ensure that more than 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply beginning in 2020, and that the volume obligation for biomass-based diesel is met.  This will include accounting for relief expected to be provided for small refineries.
       
    • EPA intends to take final action on this front later this year.
       
    • In the most recent compliance year, EPA granted 31 small refinery exemptions.
       
  • Building on the President’s earlier decision to allow year-round sales of E15, EPA will initiate a rulemaking process to streamline labeling and remove other barriers to the sale of E15.
     
  • EPA will continue to evaluate options for [renewable identification number] RIN market transparency and reform.
     
  • USDA will seek opportunities through the budget process to consider infrastructure projects to facilitate higher biofuel blends.
     
  • The Administration will continue to work to address ethanol and biodiesel trade issues.
EPA Administrator Wheeler commended Trump’s leadership in this matter, stating that this agreement continues to promote domestic ethanol and biodiesel production in support of U.S. farmers.  In addition, the agreement, according to USDA Secretary Perdue, found a way to pursue policy that promotes economic growth and energy security. A number of other elected officials also applauded Trump’s agreement.
Tags: RFS, Biofuel, EPA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 2, 2019, the government of Quebec, Canada, published in its Official Gazette a notice of a draft regulation setting standards for the integration of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel fuel.  Under the draft regulation, the standards will apply on July 1, 2021, and will then increase. As of July 1, 2025, the integration of a minimum volume of ethanol of 15 percent into gasoline and a minimum volume of biobased diesel fuel of 4 percent into diesel fuel will be required. Given the evaluation by the Canadian government of this matter, the notice states that the proposed regulation would have no particular impact on small and medium-sized businesses because the petroleum products distribution sector is made up of large businesses.  Also on July 1, 2025, enterprises subject to the regulation will invest a total of 110 million Canadian dollars in infrastructure to comply with the set standards for the integration of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel fuel.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On October 2, 2019, the Green Party of Canada commented, via a press release, on its Green Climate Action Plan called “Mission:  Possible.” Aiming to exceed the U.S. Green New Deal, under this plan, the Green Party outlines a 20-step action plan to achieve the goal of zero emissions by 2050.  Part of the strategy outlined emphasizes the idea that heavy-duty industrial machinery will need to rely on biofuels.  Although the plan is to ban internal combustion engines and ensure that cars, buses, and trains are powered by electricity by 2030, biofuels will still be needed for fishing, mining, and forestry equipment.  According to the plan, these biofuel needs will be addressed through the creation of biofuels using waste plant matter from forests and agriculture -- and only plant-based biofuels.  Claiming that food that would otherwise be used to feed Canadians, the Green Party highly opposes food-based biofuels.  Its plan, therefore, promotes development of local, small-scale biodiesel production that would rely primarily on used vegetable fat from restaurants across Canada, along with wood and agricultural waste.  Fuel switching to biodiesel would be required for agricultural, fishing, and forestry equipment.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On October 2, 2019, the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, announced that applications are now open for all 15 seats on the Governor’s Biofuels Council.  Established in September 2019 by Governor Walz, the Governor’s Biofuels Council advises the Governor and cabinet on how best to support Minnesota’s biofuels industry. Council members will include representatives of agriculture, biofuels, and transportation industries and environmental and conservation groups.  The Governor’s Biofuels Council is tasked with creating a report to advise the Governor and cabinet on the best methods to expand the use of biofuels, increase the carbon efficiency of biofuels, and implement biofuels as part of Minnesota’s larger goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) production in the transportation sector.  Under Governor Walz’s September 16, 2019, Executive Order, the Governor’s Biofuels Council must complete the report by November 2020.  Thus far, 30 individuals have applied, and Governor Walz encourages “Minnesotans in every corner of the state to apply and share their expertise on this critical issue.”  Interested parties can access the application here.


 

 

 
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