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By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory published an article titled “Retrospective Analysis of the U.S. Corn Ethanol Industry for 2005-2019: Implications for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions.” Using a life-cycle analysis (LCA), researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory quantified the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of fuels to compare relative GHG impacts among different fuel production pathways. According to the retrospective analysis conducted, since 2000, corn ethanol production in the United States quadrupled due to supportive biofuels policies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Consequently, carbon intensity (CI) over the past 15 years has significantly decreased by 23 percent. Since 2000, the corn ethanol production pathway, including corn farming and biorefineries, has substantially evolved. Researchers state in the article that this shift into more efficient farming and biorefinery practices increases revenue while also potentially reducing the emission burdens of ethanol production. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory researchers conclude that biofuels, including corn ethanol, can and likely will play a key role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
 
The article’s findings will also be used by DOE to update key corn ethanol parameters in the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) Model 2021, which will be released in October 2021.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of up to $14.5 million in investments for research and development (R&D) to reduce waste and energy use related to the recycling of single-use plastics. As the largest subset of plastics found in landfills, single-use plastics, including plastic bags, wraps, and films, are also among the most challenging to recycle. According to DOE, plastic production uses the same amount of oil around the world as the aviation industry. Only ten percent of plastics, however, are currently recycled, and most of those plastics are downcycled, or repurposed into low-value products. DOE Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm, hopes that these funds supporting plastic recycling innovation will be a “triple win by cutting plastic waste we see in our everyday lives, reducing industrial energy use and resulting emissions, and creating clean manufacturing jobs for American workers.” This is an effort by DOE to decarbonize the plastics industry and increase investments in recycling processes. There are many obstacles to plastic film recycling, including collection, sorting, contamination, and lack of economically viable methods for recycling and upcycling. Therefore, DOE will support various projects to develop viable solutions for converting plastic films to more valuable materials and designing plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable.

In addition to a concept paper and full application, the application process requires a description of how diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives will be incorporated into the project. Submission deadlines are as follows:

  • Concept Paper – Deadline: June 28, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT);
  • Full Application – Deadline: August 16, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT); and
  • View Full Application Reviewer Comments – Between September 23, 2021, and September 28, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT).

 

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

On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced its comprehensive strategy to decarbonize transportation by 30-85 percent by 2050. A strategy based on research and engineering, it aims to enable industry stakeholders, government bodies, communities, and early adopters to meet their climate goals. In a nutshell, the strategy takes a whole-system approach to pair the best technology with the right application. Chris Gearhart, NREL’s Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences Director, stated that NREL envisions “a mobility system fueled with clean, renewable energy, delivered directly by vehicle electrification, or indirectly by low-carbon, energy dense fuels and renewable hydrogen for those sectors, like marine and aviation, that are harder to electrify.” Johney Green, Associate Laboratory Director for NREL’s Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences, expanded: “The spectrum of technological, social, and environmental shifts happening today requires a novel research agenda.” Keeping long-term trends in mind, NREL’s vision entails a multi-pronged strategy that provides scientific building blocks for advancing research and development (R&D) priorities such as:

  • Accelerating vehicle technology innovations;
     
  • Increasing transport efficiency;
     
  • Maximizing the use of renewable electrons through time; and
     
  • Integrating transportation with building, the grid, and renewables to realize system-wide benefits.
     

 

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 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

On October 20, 2020, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives the Zero-Emission Vehicles At of 2020 (the Act). The Act would amend Part A of Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to create a federal national zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard and address climate change by ending U.S. sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 2035. Senator Merkley and Representative Levin’s standard aims to boost the market for battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Sponsored by four other Senators and an additional 15 Representatives, the ZEV standard has also been criticized by conservatives and biofuels industry stakeholders. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that Iowans should not “allow coastal state lawmakers to dictate to Middle America how to live [their] lives or take away the freedom to choose what kind of car to buy.”


 

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 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.

Tags: House, Climate

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 17, 2019, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Banque de France, and Frank Edelson, Chair of the Network for Greening the Financial Services (NGFS), published an open letter on the financial implications of global warming.  Co-signed by the NGFS coalition, consisting of 34 central banks, the letter warns of global warming’s potential damage to infrastructure and private property, negative human health effects, decrease in productivity, and wealth destruction.  The letter states that no countries are immune to the effects of climate change and that “if some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”  Although the Paris agreement has and continues to promote a low-carbon economy, further measures would be central to achieving zero net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Key to reaching this goal would be a massive reallocation of capital, the financial experts highlight.
 
Given the challenges associated with achieving zero-carbon emissions, in the letter, Carney, Villeroy de Galhau, and NGFS members propose four recommendations to policymakers and financial firms:

  • The integration of climate-related financial risks into daily work, financial stability monitoring, and board risk management.  Policymakers and financial firms should conduct scenario analyses and take a long-term strategic approach, which considers risks associated with global warming.  These risks should be embedded it into their business-as-usual governance and risk-management frameworks.
  • Leadership by example, particularly by central banks, to integrate sustainability into their own portfolio management.
  • Internal and external collaboration among public authorities to bridge data gaps important to assessments of climate-related risks.
  • In-house capacity building and knowledge sharing with various stakeholders on the financial risks related to climate change.

According to the letter, the successful implementation of these four recommendations would lead to two broader calls for action on disclosure and classification of these risks.  Market and regulators’ support in assessing risks and opportunities from climate change accompanied by consistent international disclosure are critical.  In addition, NGFS members also encourage the development of a classification system to identify economic activities that would contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy.  In sum, robust leadership and collaboration play a crucial role in identifying global solutions for the financial sector.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 6, 2018, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that, in 2019, any infrastructure package to be considered include a focus on the clean energy economy to address climate change. Emphasizing that climate change is, in fact, real and caused by humans, Senator Schumer refers to the Administration’s recent National Climate Assessment report and the drastic need to reduce emissions. In the letter, Senator Schumer outlines a number of policies that must be included in an infrastructure package in the next Congress. Among these policies are the need to:

  • Invest in research, development, and deployment of clean energy, energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and energy storage technologies;
  • Provide permanent tax incentives and investments for domestic production of clean energy and renewable power; and
  • Invest in upgrades in clean energy for public schools, buildings, and other infrastructure.

Senator Schumer concludes his letter to President Trump highlighting that “[t]he challenge is immense, but so is the opportunity to revitalize and modernize our infrastructure, create new jobs and economic opportunities, and position the United States as a leader in clean energy innovation.”


 
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