By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 28, 2021, University of York researchers announced the discovery of a new enzyme derived from a fungus called Parascedosporium putredinis NO1, that can act as a catalyst for a biochemical reaction that breaks down forestry and agricultural waste. The research was done in collaboration with DOE’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the University of Wisconsin. This development, according to the University of York, could play a key part in upscaling renewable fuels and chemicals. Professor Neil Bruce explained that this discovery is a breakthrough because, currently, there are no industrial biocatalytic processes for breaking down lignin, which is present in lignocellulose. This enzyme, however, can break through the lignin to begin the degradation process needed to produce biofuels. Professor Bruce elaborated that the “treatments with this enzyme can increase the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass, offering the possibility of producing a valuable product from lignin while decreasing processing costs.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On April 5, 2021, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), introduced a $500 million bill on biofuels infrastructure. The bill, titled the Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act, would create a grant program to aid fuel retailers in streamlining sales of fuels with higher ethanol blends. These infrastructure grants would be available for five years. Senator Klobuchar highlighted that "[d]iversifying our fuel supply and introducing higher blends of biofuels in the market are great steps forward as we work to promote clean energy technologies and invest in transportation infrastructure.” She also stated that this legislation would highly benefit the economy and the environment by making cleaner fuels more accessible.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On September 17, 2018, scientists at Columbia University published findings of a study on carbon dioxide (CO2) electrocatalysis as the first step in converting CO2 into renewable fuels. The results of the study are key in developing conversion points for CO2 to be used as a feedstock and renewable electricity in the synthesis of different types of fuel. For further details on the groundbreaking progress discovered by Columbia University’s scientists, the published article can be found in its entirety here.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
Renewable Industries Canada (RICanada), a principal stakeholder representing Canadian producers of clean-burning renewable fuels, announced that the Quebec Government’s 2017-2020 Action Plan under the 2030 Energy Policy included, for the first time, renewable fuel volume requirements for fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The renewable fuel blending requirement was set at 5% for gasoline and 2% diesel and is expected to increase after 2020. RICanada stated that the “announcement on renewable transportation fuels further entrenches Quebec’s position as a leader in the production of renewable energy and in the broader battle against climate change” and that its “members look forward to helping the Government of Quebec ensure that the province’s GHG targets in the transportation sector are achieved.” More information on the Action Plan for Energy Policy 2030 is available on the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources website.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On April 4, 2017, the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed HB 1580, which sets a goal of having all ground transportation in Hawaii run on renewable fuel by 2045. The bill, which does not contain an enforcement mechanism, provides a benchmark framework for achieving the ambitious target and establishes an intermediate target to reduce the sale of imported fuels by five percent in 2025. The Senate Committee introduced amendments that clarify the bill does not create a mandate to move to 100 percent clean ground transportation, but it outlines a path to achieve such a goal. According to the bill, clean ground transportation includes all transportation that avoids the consumption of fossil fuels.
On November 29, 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) Department of Transportation published proposed legislative changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which is open for consultation until January 22, 2017. Among the proposed changes is an increase in the blending mandates to 9.75 percent by volume for 2020. The three main proposals outlined detail increasing the supply of waste derived fuels, encouraging the production of advanced renewable fuels, and setting a maximum cap for fuels from food crops. The aim of the consultation is to determine whether further measures could be taken to minimize costs.
The RTFO was established to achieve the targets for renewable energy usage in the transportation sector set by the European Union by incentivizing fuel suppliers to provide biofuels at the lowest cost possible. The objective is to encourage investment in renewable fuels so that the relative cost of biofuels decreases over time.
On May 24, 2016, Iowan Governor Terry Branstad signed Senate File 2309, an Act providing for tax credits and refunds relating to renewable fuels including their component biofuels and including effective date provisions. The bill extends a state biodiesel production tax credit providing 2 cents per gallon (cpg) on the first 25 million gallons of production per biodiesel plant. The bill also extends a credit for petroleum retailers of 4.5 cpg on blends of 5 percent biodiesel or more through the end of 2017, with the incentive changing to 3.5 cpg for 5-11 percent biodiesel blends and 5.5 cpg for biodiesel blends above 11 percent from 2018 to 2024. Without the extension, the bill was scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2017, but will now continue through December 31, 2024.
On February 16, 2016, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to two recent reports on ethanol and renewable fuels. The first report was published by USDA and is on "2015 Energy Balance for the Corn-Ethanol Industry," and the second report comes from the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) and is a "Literature Review of Estimated Market Effects of U.S. Corn Starch Ethanol." Both studies demonstrate the growth of the United States' renewable energy industry with improved ethanol and biodiesel production resulting in doubled renewable energy production and a reduction in foreign oil imports. The energy used to produce corn has fallen as well, which has made the production of ethanol more efficient so that "more energy is being produced from ethanol than is used to produce it, by factors of 2 to 1 nationally and by factors of 4 to 1 in the Midwest." Both studies point towards a solid future of growth and innovation for the U.S. renewable energy industry.
On June 4, 2015, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register for a Public Hearing on the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Standards for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. As part of the hearing, EPA will consider amendments to the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels that are added to fuel produced in the U.S. or imported for 2014, 2015, and 2016, and will consider amendments to the proposed biodiesel volume for 2017. The hearing will be held on June 25, 2015, at 9:00 a.m., at the Jack Reardon Center, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas 66101.
On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, the House Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform's Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and
Entitlements held a hearing on "Examining EPA's Management of the
Renewable Fuel Standard Program." The sole witness was Janet McCabe,
Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA). A copy of Ms. McCabe's written testimony is available online.
Subcommittee Members on both sides of the aisle sharply criticized
EPA on its recent announcement that it is delaying issuing a final 2014
Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule until sometime in 2015. The rule was due to
be issued by statute by November 30, 2013. EPA renewed its strong support for
the RFS, and explained how it sought public comment on alternative approaches
to setting the volume requirements. Comments received have been extensive and
divergent, especially in light of drastically reduced gasoline prices and lower
consumption, whether and on what basis statutory volumes for renewable fuels
should be lowered, and concerns about the ability of the proposed approach to
provide progress toward achieving continued progress towards achieving the
volumes of renewable fuel targeted by law. EPA intends to take action on the
RFSs for 2014-2016 to provide much needed certainty to investors and others.
Republican and Democrat Subcommittee Members suggested that EPA's actions on
issuing the final rule contributed to instability in the biofuels market, and
may be cause for Congressional action to repeal the law, an outcome vehemently
opposed by most in the biofuels industry.