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By  Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 1, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final modifications of certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The final rule extends the RFS compliance deadline for the 2019 and 2020 compliance years and its associated deadlines for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2019 and 2020 compliance years for small refineries. The new 2019 compliance year and attest engagement report deadlines are now November 30, 2021, and June 1, 2022, respectively. The new 2020 compliance year and attest engagement report deadlines are now January 31, 2022, and June 1, 2022, respectively. EPA has also extended the deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2021 compliance year for obligated parties to September 1, 2022. The final rule became effective on March 20, 2021.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

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

On March 1, 2021, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced the American Jobs in Energy Manufacturing Act of 2021 (Act), which would incentivize domestic manufacturing of energy technologies by providing tax credits for domestic manufacturers in rural areas. The Act encourages the transition to cleaner energy by driving reinvestment into communities that have been most impacted by economic downturn. “This bill will help revitalize these areas by making smart changes to the 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to drive investment in these communities, strengthen domestic supply chains, create additional clean energy manufacturing jobs, and aid the nation’s recovery,” stated Senator Manchin. Senator Stabenow urged the Senate to pass the Act, stating that the transition to a clean energy economy would significantly contribute to the fight against climate change. The Act has been endorsed by several non-profit organizations and industry stakeholders.

Significant measures would be taken under the Act, including:

  • Investment of $8 billion in American manufacturing and industry to serve as a tool to expand or build new facilities that make or recycle energy-related products; and
     
  • Provision of assistance to applicants through new guidelines and technical assistance that promote reinvestment and job creation.

The full bill can be accessed here.


 

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

On March 3, 2021, the co-chairs of the House Biofuels Caucus, U.S. Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), introduced the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act, which would expand access to higher biofuel blends. Building off the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Higher Blends Infrastructure Inventive Program, this bill intends to provide consistent federal investment ($500 million over five years) on biofuels infrastructure, while also removing barriers to 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline (E15) fuel blends and allowing Underground Storage Tanks (UST) to store higher blends of ethanol.

On the same day, with the support of Representatives Axne and Davis, among others, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Adopt GREET Act. The Adopt GREET Act would require that EPA update its greenhouse gas (GHG) models for ethanol and biodiesel to reflect better the environmental benefits of agriculture and biofuels. Specifically, EPA would be obligated, under this Act, to adopt the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model for both biodiesel and ethanol fuels and update its model as needed every five years.

Both pieces of legislation are being supported by several industry stakeholders, including the National Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association, and Growth Energy.


 

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

On March 2, 2021, the University of Southern California (USC) Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Santa Catalina Island announced a new aquaculture technique that increases dramatically kelp growth and, consequently, yields four times more biomass than other natural processes. Using a “kelp elevator,” this new technique optimizes growth for bronze-colored floating algae by raising and lowering it to different depths. These findings suggest that the use of open ocean to grow kelp biomass for biofuel production can serve as a solution to the generation of biofuels from feedstocks such as corn and soybeans, which often increase water pollution. Corresponding author of the study, Diane Y. Kim, Ph.D., stated that “[f]orging new pathways to make biofuel requires proving that new methods and feedstocks work. This experiment on the Southern California coast is an important step because it demonstrates kelp can be managed to maximize growth.”


 

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

On January 27, 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which established a National Climate Task Force (Task Force) and puts the climate crisis at the forefront of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Highlighting the urgency in addressing the climate crisis, this EO requires short-term global reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and net-zero emissions by 2050 or before. Under the EO, the United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement and will begin implementing its three overarching goals:

  1. A safe global temperature;
     
  2. Increased resilience; and
     
  3. Financial goals aligned with a pathway toward low GHG emissions and climate-resilient development.

The EO also includes a provision (Section 216(b)(i)) stating that the Secretary of Agriculture must initiate efforts in the first 60 days, to obtain input from Tribes, farmers, forest owners, conservation groups, and other stakeholders on how to maximize the use of different U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and those of other authorities. Input on how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices will also be welcome. The aim of this provision is to achieve additional measurable and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration that source sustainable bioproducts and biofuels. The input received must be submitted to the Task Force for review within 90 days of the date of the EO, including recommendations for an agricultural and forestry climate strategy. This EO may play a key role for the biobased products and biofuels industry.


 

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

On January 19, 2021, EPA issued a request for comment on petitions submitted in 2020 for a waiver of the RFS obligations that apply to 2019 and 2020. The petitions argue that recent events warrant EPA exercising its general waiver authority on the basis of severe economic harm. In late March 2020, a group of small refineries requested a waiver of the 2019 and 2020 RFS obligations. In April 2020, Governors of several states submitted three petitions for waivers of the nationwide volumes. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA is granted the discretion to waive the requirements of the RFS program in whole or in part if the EPA Administrator determines, after a notice and comment, that the implementation of the applicable annual volume requirements would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, region, or the United States. Comments on the aforementioned petitions are due on February 18, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 13, 2020, DOE’s EERE announced that the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative issued a call for white papers. The Co-Optima initiative focuses on the development of new high-performance fuels that, when combined with advanced combustion approaches, can increase energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint. The initiative is seeking white papers to leverage National Laboratory resources and overcome technical challenges to advancing new liquid fuels and blendstocks. Proposals must address specific technical challenges and barriers that Co-Optima researchers can work on to move new fuels closer to market in conjunction with advanced, high-efficiency engines. The call for white papers is a Directed Funding Opportunity (DFO) available for U.S. domestic for-profit or non-profit businesses interested in Co-Optima’s goals and objectives. Foreign entities, including U.S. subsidiaries with a foreign-owned parent company, are also eligible to apply with a waiver request. Approval of the waiver, however, is subject to DOE discretion. All project work must be performed in the U.S.

Application templates are available here and must be submitted via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 14, 2021. Anticipated final selection decisions and notifications will be released on March 1, 2021, and the project will begin on May 1, 2021.

Four anticipated project awards are expected with $250,000 of Co-Optima National Laboratory assistance over a project duration of 12 to 18 months. Industry partners will fund their own labor, materials, and other expenses, which contribute toward a 20 percent minimum cost-share requirement.


 

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

On October 8, 2020, Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made $22 million available in grants to increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel. The funds are coming out of the $100 million in grants available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) and have been disbursed to 14 states. USDA predicts that the investments will increase ethanol demand by approximately 150 million gallons annually.

HBIIP aims to assist biodiesel distribution facilities and transportation fueling facilities with the conversion to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing costs related to installing fuel pumps and related equipment and infrastructure. Eligible grant applicants are vehicle fueling facilities, including, but not limited to:

  • Local fueling stations and locations;
  • Vehicle fueling facilities;
  • Hypermarket fueling stations;
  • Convenience stores;
  • Fuel terminal operations;
  • Fleet facilities;
  • Midstream partners; and
  • Distribution facilities.

Higher fuel blends mean fuels that contain ethanol over ten percent by volume and/or fuels containing biodiesel blends higher than five percent by volume. More information on USDA’s HBIIP can be found here.

Tags: USDA, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The government of Manitoba, Canada, is currently working to amend three regulations under the Biofuels Act. The amendments will update Manitoba’s clean fuel standards by increasing the ethanol and renewable fuel content in gasoline. The proposed amendments include:

  • “Ethanol General Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Include the latest fuel standards for ethanol blended gasoline;
       
    • Remove the quarterly reporting requirements of obligated entities; and
       
    • Increase ethanol content from 8.5% to 10%.
       
  • Biodiesel Mandate for Diesel Fuel Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Increase renewable fuel content of diesel from 2% to 5%;
       
    • Adjust the compliance formula to reflect the 5% blending requirement; and
       
    • Adjust the shortfall calculation to reflect the 5% blending requirement, and to increase the penalty amount from $0.45 to $1.50 per litre.
       
  • Biodiesel (General) Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Repeal the definition of “non-commercial licence;
       
    • Include the latest fuel standards for biodiesel and renewable diesel sold or offered for sale in Manitoba;
       
    • Include the latest fuel standards for biodiesel blends eligible under the Biodiesel Mandate;
       
    • Remove the non-commercial biodiesel manufacturing licence class;
       
    • Clarify the conditions required to hold a commercial biodiesel manufacturing licence; and
       
    • Remove references to the non-commercial licence class.”
       

The primary public policy objective of Manitoba’s government is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while increasing renewable fuels use. The regulatory amendments will come into force on January 1, 2021.


 
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